Question Forms


We ask a lot of questions every day! So when we learn a language, we need to learn how to make questions.

In English, there are two main forms (or types) of questions: Yes/No questions and Wh-questions.

In addition, there are other types of questions tat a learner has to know. These include: subject questions, negative questions, question tags, reported (or indirect) questions.

In almost all of these questions, we need to use auxiliaries. So it’s very important to learn the different kinds of auxiliary verbs and how to use them before you start learning question formation.

In an affirmative statement, the subject always comes before the verb. (An affirmative statement is a sentence that is not negative and not a question.) However, when we make a question we need to remember to put the auxiliary verb or the verb be when it is the main verb before the subject. This is what we call inversion.

Have a look at this example. (Note: In all the examples on this page, the subjects are in blue and the auxiliary verbs are in red.)

  • Affirmative: We should leave now.
  • Question: Should we leave now? or When should we leave?
  • Affirmative: She is happy.
  • Question: Is she happy? or Why is she happy?
  • Affirmative: They play volleyball very well.
  • Question: Do they play volleyball well? or How well do they play volleyball?

Yes/No questions

The first type of question is called Yes/No questions because they require the answer Yes or No.

Yes/No questions start with an auxiliary.

To choose the right auxiliary verb, we need to consider the time of the action or state (present, past, future) and whether the subject is singular or plural.

If the affirmative sentence has an auxiliary verb, we simply invert the order of the subject and auxiliary verb to make a yest/no question.

Auxiliary verbs that appear in the affirmative sentence are:

1) Verbs be: is, are, am, was, were 

Verbs be can be the main verbs of sentences. In these cases, we use them to form questions in the same way that we use verbs be as auxiliary verbs.

2) Modals: will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must

Here are some examples.

  • Affirmative: I am on time. 
  • Question: Am I on time? (Answer: Yes, you are. OR No, you aren’t.
  • Affirmative: The boys are playing. 
  • Question: Are the boys playing? (Answer: Yes, they are. OR No, they aren’t.
  • Affirmative: She can swim. 
  • Question: Can she swim? (Answer: Yes, she can. OR No, she can’t.

To make questions in present simple and past simple tenses, we use does or do in the present and did in the past. 

Here are some examples.

  • Affirmative: I eat a lot of fruits. 
  • Question: Do I eat a lot of fruits?
  • Answer: Yes, you do. OR No, you don’t.
  • Affirmative: She enjoys reading. 
  • Question: Does she enjoy reading?
  • Answer: Yes, she does. OR No, she doesn’t.
  • Affirmative: He slept early
  • Question: Did he sleep early?
  • Answer: Yes, he did. OR No, he didn’t.


The second type of questions is called wh-questions because they start with question words which begin with the two letters wh. (How is included even though it doesn’t begin with wh.)

These questions are also called information questions because they require information to be given in the response.

The question word comes before the auxiliary verb. 

This is a list of question words and when we use them.

  • What: asks about things
  • Which: asks about things and people when there is a fixed set of options
  • When: asks about time
  • Where: asks about place
  • Why: asks about reason
  • Who: asks about people
  • Whom: asks about people (as the object of a verb or preposition)
  • Whose: asks about possession
  • How: asks about the way or method

The question word How can also come in combinations with other words to ask about quantity (How much, How many), frequency (How often), age (How old), or measurements (How long, How tall, How wide, etc.).

Here are some examples. 

  • Affirmative: He lives in Cairo.
  • Question: Where does he live
  • Affirmative: We are tired because we have been working since morning.
  • Question: Why are you tired
  • Affirmative: They traveled yesterday.
  • Question: When did they travel
  • Affirmative: She is 20 years old.
  • Question: How old is she
  • Affirmative: This is my book.
  • Question: Whose book is this?

Check out the difference between who’s and whose & who and whom here.

Find out more about How many and How much here and try a quiz here.

Subject questions

To ask about the subject with who, what, or which, there is no inversion of subject and auxiliary verb. 

To form questions in the present and past simple, we put the question word before the main verb.

Here are some examples. 

  • Affirmative: Ahmad will help the old man.
  • Question: Who will help the old man?
  • Affirmative: The storm broke the tree.
  • Question: What broke the tree?
  • Affirmative: Ms. Kasim teaches us history.
  • Question: Which teacher teaches you history

Notice the difference between subject and object questions.

  • Affirmative: Ahmad will help the old man.
  • Object Question: Who will Ahmad help? Answer: The old man.
  • Subject Question: Who will help the old man? Answer: Ahmad.

And here’s another example:

  • Affirmative: The storm broke the tree.
  • Object Question: What did the storm break? Answer: The tree.
  • Subject Question: What broke the tree? Answer: The storm.

Try these quizzes:

     ⇔ Present Simple Questions Quiz

     ⇔ Auxiliary Verbs in Questions Quiz

Negative questions

Negative questions start with negative contractions (or short forms) of auxiliaries. Long forms are also possible in very formal situations.

Generally, negative questions are used in Yes/No questions.

  • Isn’t she late?
  • Aren’t you happy?
  • Doesn’t he work for this company?
  • Haven’t you moved to the new house yet?

To avoid confusion in answering these questions, use a short answer rather than one word (Yes/No).

  • Question: Isn’t she late?
  • Answer: Yes, she is late.
  • Answer: No, she isn’t late.

We usually use negative questions to confirm information we think is true. For example, if you think your friend has bought a car and you want to confirm this information, you ask her:

  • Question: Haven’t you bought a new car?
  • Answer: Yes, I have.
  • Answer: No, I haven’t.

In addition, we use negative questions to express surprise. The expected answer is Yes.

For example, if you see your son playing a video game while you know that he has an important test the next day, you ask him:

  • Question: Don’t you have a test tomorrow?
  • Answer: Yes, I do, but I have finished studying for it.
  • Answer: No. I took the test yesterday.

Another use of negative questions is to start a conversation. For example, if you want someone to agree with you and engage in a small talk, you may say:

  • Question: Isn’t it a nice place?
  • Question: Don’t you like this place?

We can use negative questions with why simply to ask about the reason.

  • Question: Why didn’t Sarah come today?
  • Answer: Because she was not feeling well.
  • Question: Why isn’t there any milk in the fridge? 
  • Answer: Because I didn’t find fresh milk in the supermarket.

If you want to give a suggestion, you may ask:

  • Why don’t we go out? (Let’s go out.)
  • Why don’t we visit him? (Let’s visit him.)

Also, we can use why in negative questions to give advice to give the same meaning of the modal “should.”

  • Why don’t you restart your computer? (You should restart your computer.)
  • Why doesn’t he tell them the truth? (He should tell them the truth.)

Another question word that can be used in negative questions is who. The following examples are both subject and negative questions.

  • Who doesn’t like pizza?
  • Who hasn’t participated yet?
  • Who wasn’t here yesterday?

Test yourself with these quizzes:

     ⇔ Questions Quiz 1

     ⇔ Questions Quiz 2

Question tags

Question tags (or tag questions) are short questions that come at the end of affirmative or negative statements.

They are used to ask for confirmation or agreement.

To form a question tag, we use an auxiliary verb and an appropriate personal pronoun (I, we, you, etc.).

If there is an auxiliary verb in the sentence, we use it. Otherwise, in present and past simple tenses, we use do, does or did.

There is always a comma before the auxiliary verb.

If the statement is affirmative (positive), the question tag is negative.

  • Mary can finish the task, can’t she?
  • Robert is sleeping, isn’t he?
  • They speak Spanish, don’t they?

If the statement is negative, the question tag is positive.

  • Mary can’t finish the task, can she?
  • Robert isn’t sleeping, is he?
  • They don’t speak Spanish, do they?

Special cases

The following question tags do not follow the rules explained above. 

Negative adverbs

If the statement contains one of the adverbs that carry a negative meaning, such as barely, hardly, never, rarely, scarcely, and seldom, the question tag is positive.

  • You never watch football matches, do you?
  • She is rarely late, is she?
  • They seldom visit you, do they?

Indefinite pronouns

With the indefinite pronouns everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, no oneand nobody, we use the personal pronoun they.

On the other hand, we use it with nothing, something, and everything.

Negative indefinite pronouns (nothing, nobody, no one) are treated like negative statements, so they are followed by positive question tags.

  • Everyone will be ready to help, won’t they
  • Somebody has locked the gate, haven’t they?
  • No one talked to the manager, did they?
  • Something is bothering you, isn’t it?
  • Everything looks all right, doesn’t it?
  • Nothing can stop us, can it?
  • Nobody came to see me, did they?


We can use question tags after imperatives (invitations, orders and requests). Question tags after imperatives do not need a direct answer.

We use:

  • won’t for invitations
  • can, can’t, will, would for orders and requests

Here are some examples:

  • You’ll pay the bill, won’t you(polite request)
  • Help yourself, won’t you? (polite invitation)
  • Put the volume down, can you? (quite friendly request)
  • Put the volume down, can’t you? (quite friendly request); with some irritation)
  • Leave your phone in the locker, would you? (polite order)
  • Leave your phone in the locker, will you(less polite order)
  • Don’t open the parcel, will you? (negative imperative; only will is possible)
  • You don’t have an extra charger, do you? (friendly/polite request; starting with negative statement)
  • You couldn’t babysit my baby, could you? (friendly/polite request; starting with negative statement)

More special cases

  • I am smart, aren’t I? (NOT amn’t I)
  • Let’s start, shall we?
  • You had a meeting, didn’t you? (had is the main verb; American English)
  • You had a meeting, hadn’t you? (had is the main verb; British English)
  • She has to go, doesn’t she?
  • Theyd better leave, hadn’t they(‘d better = had better)
  • This is your pen, isn’t it? (Use it to refer to this or that)
  • Those are your sandals, aren’t they? (Use they to refer to these or those)
  • There is a lot of work to do today, isn’t there? (With there + be, we use there in the question tag, not the subject.)
  • You used to travel more often, didn’t you?
  • They must be ready by now, mustn’t they?

Test yourself with these quizzes:

     ⇔ Question Tags Quiz 1

     ⇔ Question Tags Quiz 2

How to answer question tags

The positive-negative or negative-positive structure of question tags may cause non-native English speakers to get confused when answering these questions.

Let’s have a look at this example. On a very cold day, you may hear these conversations. The answers given are the correct ones.

  • Question: Its very cold today, isn’t it?
  • Answer: Yes, it is.
  • Question: It isn’t cold today, is it?
  • Answer: Yes, it is.
  • Question: It‘s hot today, isn’t it
  • Answer: No, it isn’t.
  • Question: It isn’t hot today, is it?
  • Answer: No, it isn’t