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2.6: Forming Questions

  • Page ID
    52270
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    Forming Yes/No Questions with a Main Verb

    Compare these sentences...

    • She was living in Los Angeles at the time of the Northridge Earthquake
    • She ran out of her house and stood in the middle of the street
    • She had packed an earthquake kit

    Answer these questions about the sentences above...

    • What are the verbs?
    • What is the tense of each verb? (Past, present, future)
    • What is the aspect of each verb? (Simple, continuous, perfect)
    • What are the auxiliaries for each verb?

    Answers

    • The verbs are "live," "run," "stand," and "pack"
    • All of the tenses are past
    • The aspect in the first sentence is continuous, in the second sentence is simple, and in the third sentence is perfect
    • The auxiliary in the first sentence is "be," in the second sentence is "do," and in the third sentence is "have"

    Compare these sentences. Identify the auxiliary, main verb, and subject...

    • Was she living in Los Angeles at the time of the Northridge Earthquake?
    • Did she run out of her house and stand in the middle of the street?
    • Had she packed an earthquake kit?

    Answer these questions about the sentences above...

    • What order to the auxiliary, main verb, and subject follow?
    • What form does each take?
    • What is the rule for forming yes/no questions with a main verb?

    Answers

    • Auxiliary + subject + verb with aspect
    • Auxiliary has the tense, main verb has the aspect
    • Auxiliary + subject + verb with aspect + complement

    Forming Yes/No Questions with "Be"

    Compare these sentences...

    • Earthquakes cause a lot of damage
    • Earthquakes are common in California
    • She was studying earthquakes in 2009

    What is the verb in each sentence?

    Answers

    • Cause
    • Are
    • Was studying

    Compare these three questions...

    • Do earthquakes cause a lot of damage?
    • Are earthquakes common in California?
    • Was she studying earthquakes in 2009?

    What is the auxiliary verb in each sentence? What is the main verb in each?

    Answers

    • The auxiliary is "do," the main verb in "cause"
    • The main verb is "are" ("be")
    • The auxiliary is "be," the main verb is "studying"

    Rule: When the main verb is "be," use "be" in the same position as the auxiliary. When the main verb is not "be," use an auxiliary to create a question. Auxiliary verbs are "do," "be," and "have"

    Forming Information Questions With a Main Verb

    Compare these two pairs of questions. How are they different?

    • Do earthquakes cause a lot of damage?
    • What do earthquakes cause?
    • Was she studying earthquakes in 2009?
    • When was she studying earthquakes?

    Answer these questions about the sentences above...

    • Which questions ask for the answer yes or no?
    • Which questions ask for more information?
    • Do the auxiliary, subject, and verb follow the same order in information questions as they do in yes/no questions?

    Answers

    • The first sentences in each pair ask for the answer yes or no
    • The second sentences in each pair ask for more information
    • Yes, the auxiliary, subject, and verb follow the same order in information questions as they do in yes/no questions

    What is the Pattern For Information Questions?

    Wh + auxiliary + subject + verb with aspect + complement. This pattern works for all tenses. Check this pattern on the questions below...

    • When was she studying earthquakes?
    • What do earthquakes cause?
    • How did they survive the disaster?
    • When had he packed his earthquake kit?

    Questions About the Subject

    Questions about the subject follow a different pattern. Look at the sentence below...

    • Scientists have studied earthquakes for many years

    Compare the two questions below. What is the answer to each question? How do you know?

    • Who has studied earthquakes for many years?
    • What have scientists studied for many years?

    What is the question order in the first question? What is the question order in the second sentence?

    Answers

    • The answer to the first question is "scientists," the question order is "who/what" + verb (with tense/aspect in third singular) + complement
    • The answer to the second question is "earthquakes," the question order is wh + auxiliary + subject + verb (with aspect)

    Here is another example...

    • The scientists warned the mayor about the earthquakes

    Compare the two questions below. What is the answer to each question? How do you know?

    • Who warned the mayor about the earthquakes?
    • Who did the scientists warn about the earthquakes?

    Which question is asking about the subject? What is the question word order in each question?

    Answers

    • The answer to the first question is "scientists," the question order is "who/what" + verb (with tense/aspect in third singular) + complement
    • The answer to the second question is "the mayor," the question order is wh + auxiliary + subject + verb (with aspect)

    The first question is asking about the subject

    Questions With a Noun Phrase in the Question Word

    Some questions have the subject or object in the question word. These include "how many ________," "how much _______," "what kind of ______," and "which ______"

    Compare these questions...

    • How many earthquakes have hit Southern California?
    • How many earthquakes has he experienced?

    Which question has a question word as the subject? Which question has a question word as an object? Does the verb always agree with the subject?

    Answers

    • The first question has a question word as the subject
    • The second question has a question word as an object
    • Yes, the verb always agrees with the subject

    Ideas to Remember

    • Auxiliary verbs are "do," "be," "have," and modals
    • Question words are "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how"
    • Tenses are past, present, and future
    • Verbs with aspects means:
      • Continuous = verb + -ing (present participle)
      • Simple = base form
      • Perfect = past participle
    • Yes/no questions will use the order: auxiliary + subject + verb with aspect
    • Information question will use the order wh + auxiliary + subject + verb with aspect
    • Questions about the subject are the exception. They use: "who/what" + verb with tense and aspect + complement

    Videos and Other Resources

    Watch this video and this video for more information about forming questions in English...

    Still not sure about subject questions? Try this video and written explanation...

    Practice

    How well do you understand question formation? Quiz yourself! Write five questions about the following paragraph...

    The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake occurred on September 19 at 7:17 AM. The earthquake caused more than 5000 deaths. The damage from the earthquake cost more than 3 billion US dollars. The earthquake began in the Pacific Ocean, 350 miles away from Mexico City. Mexico City is vulnerable to earthquakes, because it was built on a former island in a lake. The city experiences more than 90 quakes per year above 4.0 magnitude. Since the 1985 earthquake, the city has organized many systems to prepare for earthquakes, save lives, and respond to earthquake damage.

    • The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake occurred on September 19 at 7:17 AM
      • When...
    • The earthquake caused more than 5000 deaths
      • How many...
    • The damage from the earthquake cost more than 3 billion US dollars
      • How much...
    • The earthquake began in the Pacific Ocean, 350 miles away from Mexico City
      • Where...
    • Since the 1985 earthquake, the city has organized many systems to prepare for earthquakes, save lives, and respond to earthquake damage
      • Why...

    2.6: Forming Questions is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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