Teaching English

English Grammar | Building Questions In The Present Simple

Learn to build questions in the Present Simple in English easily! Guidelines, examples, printable resources, and online lessons to boost your grammar skills.
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Building questions in English can be a problem for non-native speakers due to the complexities of sentence structure, word order, and the use of auxiliary verbs, which may or may not be necessary.

In this blog post, you can find some tips for creating questions in English, particularly focusing on building questions in the present simple tense. Additionally, there are printable resources and short online lessons available to help improve your English grammar skills.

Questions starting with do or does

To form interrogative sentences in the Present Simple tense, we use the verb forms do or does with most verbs.

To form a yes-or-no question:

start with do or does  +  add the subject +  add the infinitive of the verb +  finish the sentence

The verb forms do and does don’t add meaning to the sentence; they simply act as auxiliary verbs to indicate that you are asking a question.

Do or Does Subject Infinitive Additional information
Do
I / you / we / they
like
chocolate?
Does
he / she / it
like
chocolate?

Avoid these common mistakes!

  • We say Do you like chocolate? (not You like chocolate?)
  • We say Does she like chocolate? (not Does she likes chocolate?)

Questions starting with the verb to be

To make questions with the verb to be we invert the subject and the verb:

Verb to be Subject Additional information
Am
I
on the list?
Is
he / she / it
on the list?
Are
you / we / they
on the list?

Avoid these common mistakes!

  • We say Am I late? (not I am late?)
  • We say Is she late? (not She is late?)

Using have vs. have got in questions

To form interrogative sentences with the verb have in the Present Simple tense, we use the auxiliary do or does like we do with most verbs.

Question word Do or Does Subject Infinitive Additional information
-----
Do
I / you / we / they
have
any brothers or sisters?
-----
Does
he / she / it
have
any brothers or sisters?
What
do
you
have
in your pocket?

To form interrogative sentences with have got in the Present Simple tense, we don’t use the auxiliary do or does.

Question word Have or has Subject Got Additional information
-----
Have
I / you / we / they
got
any brothers or sisters?
-----
Has
he / she / it
got
any brothers or sisters?
What
have
you
got
in your pocket?

Questions starting with a question word

When we use question words, like what, when, where, how, etc., these questions words go before the auxiliary verb do or does:

Question word Do or does Subject Infinitive Additional information
What
do
you
do
in your free time?
What
does
he / she
do
in his / her free time?
Where
do
I / you / we / they
sleep?
-----
Where
does
he / she / it
sleep?
-----
When
does
he / she
start
his / her new job?
How
does
he / she
go
to school?
Who
do
you
live
with?

We also use question words, like what, when, where, how, etc., before the verb to be:

Question word Verb to be Subject Additional information
What
is
your name?
-----
When
is
your birthday?
-----
Where
are
my car keys?
-----
How
are
you
today?

Avoid these common mistakes!

  • We say Where do you go to school? (not Where you go to school?)
  • We say Where does she live? (not Where she lives?)

Using which vs. what in questions

The use of which and what in questions depends on the number of options that we have. Let’s compare these sentences:

  • What is the biggest country in Europe? (not Which is the biggest country in Europe?)
  • Which is the biggest country – Spain, France or Germany? 
  • What color are his eyes? (not Which color are his eyes?)
  • Which color do you prefer, blue or red? 

We use which when we are talking about a small number of options (perhaps 2, 3 or 4; anyway, it’s usually a number under 10).

  • We can buy this car or that car. Which car shall we buy? (we only have two options – this car or that car)
  • There are three black cars here. Which is yours? (we only have three black cars)

What is more general and we use it when the number of options is too big or when we don’t really know the number of options we have:

  • What sort of books do you read? (of all the kinds of books)
  • What‘s the capital of Australia? (of all the cities in Australia)

Questions with who

Questions with who sometimes don’t use do or does. This not only occurs with the verbs to be and have got but also when we are asking to find out who the subject is. In the following questions who is the subject.

Question word Verb (3rd person singlar) Additional information
Who
lives
in this house?
Who
wants
chocolate?
Who
has got
your book?
Who
is
at the door?

Questions with who use do or does when we are asking to find out who the object is. In the following questions who is the object, not the subject.

Question word Do or does Subject Infinitive Additional information
Who
do
you
live
with?
Who
does
she
live
with?
Who
do
they
work
for?

Questions with modal verbs (can, may, ...)

Modal verbs you can use in the simple present tense include can, may, might, should, must, etc. Questions with modal verbs begin with a question word or with a modal verb. After the modal verb, add the subject (the person or thing performing the action). Follow with the infinitive of the main verb and complete the question with any additional information or details.

Question word Modal verb Subject Infinitive Additional information
-----
Can
I
help
you?
How
can
I
help
you?
-----
Can
you
pass
me the salt, please?

Questions with there is and there are

In English, there is and there are are used to indicate the existence or presence of something. There is is used with singular and uncountable nouns while there are is used with plural nouns. These phrases are commonly used in questions to inquire about whether something exists or is present. When forming interrogative sentences, these phrases involve the rule of inversion – we say is there and are there in questions.

Question word Is or are There Additional information
-----
-----
Is
there
a book on the table?
-----
-----
Is
there
any milk left in the fridge?
-----
-----
Are
there
students in the classroom?
-----
-----
Are
there
any apples in the basket?
How many
rooms
are
there
in your house?
What
-----
is
there
to eat for dinner?

Questions with adverbs (often, always, ...)

When we use adverbs, like always, usually, often, etc, these adverbs go after the subject:

Question word Do or does Verb to be Subject Adverbt Infinitive Additional information
What
do
-----
you
usually
do
in your free time?
-----
Does
-----
he
always
have
dinner alone?
-----
Do
-----
you
often
go
to bed late?
Why
-----
are
they
always
-----
late?

Printable worksheets

Printable worksheets for teachers and students, available at up2dateskills online stores: up2 and TPT.

Online lessons and quizzes

Your turn!

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