Questions in English. Part 1 – General (Yes/No) and Wh-question

Questions in English differ significantly from Russian ones. In Russian, we can ask a question by using only intonation, without changing anything in a grammatical form. In English, it's the opposite. Intonation does not matter when constructing a question, but grammar "rules the world", so to say.

In this article we are going to consider 2 types of questions in English – general or yes/no questions and Wh-questions. As for other types of questions, namely subject questions, alternative questions and tag question, you can find the information here.

1 type – General or Yes/No questions

General questions in English are needed to learn some general information, that’s why they are called so. They imply a short answer "yes" or "no" without specifying details.

To form a general question, we need an auxiliary verb, which is not translated, but merely serves as a grammatical index. We put this verb in the first place in the sentence. There are several auxiliary verbs, their choice depends on the tense which we use to ask a question.


Present simple tense

To ask a question in the present tense, we need the auxiliary verb do or does at the beginning of the sentence. The choice of the auxiliary verb depends on the person to whom the question is asked. Let's take an example:

They often do sport in the morning.

To ask a question, we take the auxiliary verb do (this verb is used with the persons I, you, we, they) and put it first.

Do they often do sport in the morning?


Her husband buys her flowers.

Here the auxiliary verb does (it is used with persons he, she, it) is useful. By the way, it changes the form of the verb, taking the ending -s from it:

Does her husband buy her flowers?


Past simple tense

For questions in the past tense (Past simple) there is only one auxiliary verb for all persons - did. It also influences the semantic verb, taking away the ending -ed or returning it to the first form if the verb is irregular.

They went on holiday last week.

Did they go on holiday last week?

She listened to the speech carefully.

Did she listen to the speech carefully?


Present and past perfect

Present perfect and past perfect tenses have the same formula for the formation of common questions. Auxiliary verbs in these tenses have forms have/has and had. It is them that we put at the beginning of the sentence, asking the question.

We have already seen this movie.

Have we seen this movie yet?

She had phoned her friend before coming around.

Had she phoned her friend before coming around?


Future tense

For questions in the future, we will also need an auxiliary verb. It is will, also one for all persons.

I will see you tomorrow.

Will I see you tomorrow?


2 type – Wh-questions

Wh-questions help us to find out the details of what interests us, any specific information. For example, not just that they travel every year, but where they travel, when, with whom, for how long.

 Wh-questions are asked with the help of question words, which are placed at the very beginning of the sentence before the auxiliary verb. What are the question words we've discussed here.

The rule for creating Wh-questions extends to all grammatical tenses.

She travelled around the world last year.

When did she travel around the world?

Where did she travel last year?


I have been reading since 10 in the morning.

How long have I been reading?

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