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Linguapress English Grammar

Word order in questions in English

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.

   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?
   Whose is that bag?

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?

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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 secretary soon 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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Cette page en français: ►
L'ordre des mots dans les questions en anglais

Word order is very important in English; but it is not complicated, and can be reduced to a few basic rules or principles


► Click for  Full grammar index
Selected main grammar pages
Verbs: the present tense
Verbs : the future
Past tenses
Phrasal & prepositional verbs
Gerunds, participles and -ing forms
The infinitive
Irregular verb tables
Nouns, pronouns, adjectives
Noun phrases
Adjective order in English
The possessive
Sentences & clauses
Relative clauses in English
Conditional clauses in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English
More resources
Reading resources: advanced 
Reading resources: intermediate
Crosswords and word games

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