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Word order in questions in English

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Word order in questions in English

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Interrogative structures in English

How to form correctly ordered questions in English


See also : tag questions

1. Word order in English questions:

 Making correctly-formed questions in English is really so simple....  Almost all questions use the same structure.
All you need to do is to remember this simple and common English phrase:
   How do you do?
The structure of almost every simple question in English is based on this same model:
   (Question word if there is one) - Auxiliary or modal - subject - main verb - (plus the rest of the sentence):

1.1. Question words - or wh- words

In English there are three types of question word
  • Interrogative pronouns - who, whom, what, which
  • Interrogative determiners - which, what or whose (followed by a noun),
  • Interrogative adverbs -  where, why, how etc.
Important: take care !
In the interrogative, as in the negative, English verbs are ALWAYS made up of at least two elements, an auxiliary and the root verb.
In the interrogative there is only one exception to this rule, and that is certain tenses of the verb to be.  
  • Examples:  Are you ready ?   Were they impressed ?
For all other verbs - including to have - tenses that are formed with a single verb in an affirmative statement (i.e. the present simple and the simple past) are formed in the interrogative by the addition of the auxiliary do.

Examples
   Where did Jane Austen live?
   Did Arnold Schwarzenegger  learn English quickly?
   How quickly did Arnold Schwarzenegger  learn English ?
   Has the bank sent us an invoice yet?
   How many books have you read this year ?
   Is the new secretary being given her own laptop ?
   Can  the new secretary be given her own laptop ?
   How quickly can  the new secretary be given her own laptop ?
   Is  the new secretary nice ?
   Why can't we have a second chance?

1.2. Comparison between statements and questions with single-word tenses :

   He had a good time.   >   Did he have a good time?  
          NOT  Had he a good time?
   He lives in new York.   >   Does he live in new York?  
          NOT  Lives he in New York?

2. Exceptions:
Certain adverbs, notably short adverbs of frequency or time, can and indeed sometimes must be placed between the auxiliary and the root verb, as in statements. In questions, these adverbs are placed between the subject and the root verb.
   Has that French company yet sent us their order ?
   Can the new secretarysoon be given a bigger desk ?
   What sort of hats do the ladies usually wear?

Return to  Word order in English statements:

Going further: other issues of word order.
Specific word order issues are also considered on other pages:
Return to English Grammar index

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