Why or Why not questions examples

Home » English Vocab and Grammar » Asking Questions in English: 3 Types of Questions You Should KnowBy Ryan Sitzman Last updated: July 20, 2022Asking Questions in English: 3 Types

Why or Why not questions examples

Home » English Vocab and Grammar » Asking Questions in English: 3 Types of Questions You Should Know

By Ryan Sitzman Last updated: July 20, 2022

Asking Questions in English: 3 Types of Questions You Should Know

If you want to learn English, be as curious as possible.

Asking questions is a useful skill for almost any situation, and questioning everything will help you learn a lot more.

In this guide, well cover three main types of questions in English that you can use again and again in real life.

Contents

  • What Is a Question?
  • English Grammar Words to Know for Asking Questions
  • Verbs
  • Nouns
  • Tenses
  • 3 Types of QuestionsYou Should Know How to Ask in English
  • 1. Yes/No Questions
  • How to form yes/no questions
  • Examples of yes/no questions
  • Famous songs and books with yes/no questions
  • 2. Wh- Questions
  • Question words for wh- questions
  • How to form wh- questions
  • Examples of wh- questions
  • A Note About Negative Questions
  • Famous songs and books with wh- questions
  • 3. Tag Questions
  • When should I use tag questions?
  • How do I form tag questions?

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

What Is a Question?

This question may seem obvious (clear), but its good to review. There are generally three types of sentences: statements, commands and questions.

Statements are sentences that state (tell) information:

  • I like dogs.
  • My aunt lives in Bulgaria.
  • Cows have four legs.

Commandsare sentences that give orders (tell people to do actions). This is also sometimes called the imperative.

  • Be quiet!
  • Please open the window.
  • First, puta spoonful ofbutter into a hotpan.

Questionsare sentences that ask for information.Today well look at three types of questions: (1) yes/no questions, (2) wh- questions and (3) tag questions. For each type, well see many example questions in different tenses.

English Grammar Words to Know for Asking Questions

Ill try to keep this post as simple as possible for anyone just starting to learn English for beginners, but there are a few words you should know to help you better understand this post. If you already know these words, you can skip ahead to the next section!

Verbs

A verb is an action word. Its usually the most important part of any sentence because it tells you what is happening. For this post, you should know two types of verbs: main verbs and auxiliary verbs.

  • Main verb:The main verb is the action word in a sentence. For example, in the sentence Bobby eats a salad, the word eats is the main verb. If a sentence only has one verb, you cansimplycall it the verb.
  • Auxiliary verb:Auxiliary verbs are verbs that are used together with a mainverb. Auxiliaryverbs are usually some form of words like be, haveor do, but also modal verbslike can or will.An auxiliary verb is also sometimes called a helping verb or just auxiliary.For example, in the sentenceBobby doesnt eat fish, the word doesnt is the auxiliary and the word eat is the main verb.

Nouns

A noun is aperson, place, thingoridea. Depending on how you use nouns, they can also have different names:

  • Subject: The subject is a noun that does an action. For example, in Bobby eats a salad, the subject is Bobby because Bobby is the person doing the action.
  • Object:The object is a noun that receives an action. In the example above,the object is a salad, because its receiving the action.

Tenses

When talking about grammar, tense indicates when actions happen. There are three basic tenses: past, present and future. Eachof those tenses can besimple, perfectorcontinuous(also called progressive).

  • Simple tenses: Simple tenses use the most basic forms of verbs: Doctor Smith treats patients.
  • Perfect tenses: Perfect tenses usesome form of the auxiliary verb to have plus the past participle form of the verb:Doctor Smith has treated 200 patients this year.
  • Continuous tenses:Continuoustenses use some form of the verb to be plus a verb that ends with -ing: Doctor Smith is treating a patient.

That should be enough basic vocabulary to help you understand this article, so lets start by looking at our first type of question.

3 Types of QuestionsYou Should Know How to Ask in English

1. Yes/No Questions

This type of question is usually the easiest toask and answer in English. Theyre called yes/no questions because the answer to these questions is generally yes or no.

How to form yes/no questions

The basic structure for yes/no questions looks like this:

[Auxiliary Verb] + [Subject] + [Main Verb] + [Object or Other Information] + ?

Examples of yes/no questions

Presentsimple examples

The present simple tense is used to talk about things that are always true, or things that generally or frequently happen. Here are some question examples:

  • Do you like English?
  • Does your sister live in Boston?
  • Can his parentsspeak English?

Careful: Exception!If the main verb of the sentence is some form of to be, it goesin the auxiliary position.Here are a few examples:

  • Are you ready?
  • Am I okay?
  • Is your mom German?

There is no second verb in the fourexamples above, soyou go directly to the other information.

Present continuous examples

This is also called present progressive. When you use this tense, you want to indicate that something is happening right now, so use some form of the verb to be and a verb that ends with -ing.

  • Are you watching the news right now?
  • Is your teacher wearing a tie?
  • Are your parents planning a vacation?

Present perfect examples

The present perfect tense is used to talk about things that started in the past, but are still true or relevant now. For example:

  • Have you seen my car keys?
  • Has your dad watched the new Star Wars movie yet?
  • Have we reached our sales goals for this year?

Present perfect continuous examples

Perfecttenses can also be made continuous. You can do that if you want to talk about something that started in the past, but you want to emphasize that its still actively happening now. For example:

  • Have you been studying at this university for a long time?
  • Has your dog been feeling sick the whole day?
  • Have your parents been living here since they were children?

Past simple examples

Use the past simple tense when you want to talk about actions that were completed in the past. To do that, put the auxiliary in the past form (usually did).

  • Did you say my name?
  • Did the bossleave the meeting?
  • Did your parents drink all the wine?

Careful: Exception!This is similar to the exception for the simple present. If the main verb of the sentence is some form of to be, then put the simple past form of to bein the auxiliary position. Again, a second verb isnt necessary. For example:

  • Wereyou ready?
  • Was Jeremy at the group dinner last Thursday?
  • Were your brothers all sports fans when they were young?

Past continuousexamples

Use the past continuous when you want to talk about completed past actions that continued for a period of time. To do this, use a past form of the verb to be for the auxiliary and the -ing form for the main verb.

  • Were you talking to me?
  • Was Theresa working yesterday at 4:00 p.m.?
  • Was I wearing this shirt the last time you saw me?

Past perfect examples

This tense is less common, but its still useful. It uses the auxiliary had plus the past participle of the verb. You can use the past perfect to show oneevent happened before another in the past. Theearlier events use the past perfect and the more recentevents usethe past simple. For example:

  • Had you been to Canada before you moved there?
  • Had your mother played anyothersports before she joined thesoftball team?
  • Had Harry Potter used any magicbefore he went to Hogwarts?

Past perfect continuous examples

This is similar to the past perfect tense, but it indicates that the first action continued for a period of time. It uses the auxiliary had, and themain verb =been + the -ing verb.

This is even less common than the regular past perfect tense, but you can still see how it uses the samestructure for yes/no questions:

  • Had you been studying English before you moved to Seattle?
  • Had the dog been acting strangebefore you took him to the vet?
  • Had they been waitingfor long before you arrived?

Future simple examples

The most common type of future yes/no questions are ones that use the future simple tense.

You can use the futuresimple tense to ask about short actions in the future. These questions are actually very easy to make. Start the sentence with will as the auxiliary and use asimple (infinitive) verb for the main verb.

  • Will you call me tomorrow?
  • Will the city government build a new parking lot next year?
  • Will thatdog try to bite me?

Future continuous examples

You can use this to talk about things that will happen for a period of time in the future. Start with will as the auxiliary verb and use be plus the -ing form of a verb.

  • Will you bewaiting inside or at the ticket booth?
  • Willthey be arriving soon?
  • Willshe be singing when we get there?

Future perfect examples

These finaltwo tenses are much less common.Theyre also more complicated because you generally have to include more context information when you use them.

  • Will you have lived here long enough to vote in the next election?
  • Will you have finished the marathon by this time tomorrow?

Future perfect continuous examples

  • When the school year ends, will you have been teachingthere for 15years?
  • Will you have been running in the marathon for sixhours by this time tomorrow?

Famous songs and books with yes/no questions

There are several songs and books that use yes/no questions in their titles. Here are a few of my favorites.

Songs

  • Are You Lonesome Tonight?  Elvis Presley
    (Present simple  And this song hasmany more questions, too!)
  • Can I Kick It? by A Tribe Called Quest
    (Present simple)
  • Do You Realize?? by The Flaming Lips
    (Present simple)
  • Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival
    (Present perfect)
  • Is She Really Going Out with Him? by Joe Jackson
    (Present continuous)
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash
    (Present/future simple)

Books

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
    (Present continuous)
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
    (Present simple)

2. Wh- Questions

These are called wh- questions because they usually start with a question word that begins with the letters wh. Sometimes theyre also called open questions. Thats because there are many more possible answers than justyes/no.

Question words for wh- questions

Most question words actually do start with wh-, with the exception of how. Heresa quick review of the question words you should know and when to use them.

  • What:Use what if you want information about an object or thing.
  • Which:This is very similar to what, but generally use which if there are specific or limited options to choose from.
  • When: Use when if you want information about a time or date.
  • Where: Use where if you want information about a place or location.
  • Who: Use who if you want information about a person.
  • Why: Use why if you want information about a reason or explanation for something.

Some wh- question words start with how:

  • How: Use how if you want information about the way or technique to do something.
  • How much: Use how much if you want information about quantities of nounsthat arent countable (like sugar, water, money, etc.).
  • How many: Use how many if you want information about quantities of things are countable (like people, bottles of water, dollars, etc.).
  • How often: Use how often if you want information about the frequency of an event.
  • Other uses for how: You can also use how plus an adjective (a descriptive word) if you want information about the degree or amount of an adjective. Examples can include how tall, how beautiful, how young, how old and many others.

Importantnote about question phrases:

Some question words are actually phrases with multiple words.For example, I can start a question with Where, but I can also add a phrase, such as Where in Germany. There are many, many possibilities here, such as How many times this month, When in March, etc.

Soyou can have a question phrase with more than one word. But it will normally still go in the same position at the start of the sentence.

How to form wh- questions

If you understand how to form yes/no questions, then its very easy to form wh- questions. Generally,just add a question word/phrase to the beginning of a yes/no question.

The structure of a wh- question is usually like this:

[Wh- Question Word/Phrase] + [Auxiliary Verb] + [Subject] + [Main Verb] + [Object or Other Information] + ?

Examples of wh- questions

Well look at these examples in the same order as in the first section, with some similar topics. I wont include explanations about when and how to use each of the tenses unless there are differences between yes/no questions and wh- questions.

Present simple examples

  • Why do you like English?
  • Which days do you have access to a car?
  • Where does your sister live?

Careful: Exception!Forsome questions that start with Who, we dont alwaysknow who the subject is. Because of that, we normally change the structure a bit. For example:

ObjectQuestion:Who does your mom love?

Here your mom is the subject. So after who, I include the auxiliary, then the subject, and then the verb. The question is asking about the object (the person your mom loves), so its called an object question.

SubjectQuestion:Who lovesyour mom?

In this case, who is asking about the identity of the subject. Your mom is actually the object of this sentence. So I can eliminate the auxiliary and the subject. That may be a little confusing, since your mom is a person, but lets see an example with a thing:

Who lovespizza?

Here its much clearer that there is no subject in the question, and that pizza is the object.

Present continuous examples

  • Who is watching the news right now?
  • Why isnt your teacher wearing a tie?
  • What are your parents planning to do on vacation?

Present perfect examples

This tense is more common withyes/no questions, but there are some times when you can make this tense into wh- questions.

  • Why havent youseen my car keys? You were the last person to drive the car!
  • How many times hasyour dad watched the new Star Wars movie?
  • How hasyour dog learned to sit on command?

Present perfect continuous examples

  • Why have you been studying for so long? You need a break!
  • Where has your sister been working this year?
  • Why hasyour dog been actingstrangeall day?

Past simple examples

  • Why did you say my name?
  • When didyour parents go to the grocerystore?
  • How did your cat catch the mouse?

Careful: Exception!If the main verb of the sentence is some form of tobe, thena second verb usually isnt necessary. For example:

  • When wereyou at work?
  • Why was your mom in Germany last week?
  • Who wasin Brooklyn last night?

Past continuous examples

  • Where were your children walking to yesterday?
  • Whywere you talking to him after the interview?
  • What were the hippos eating when you saw them at the zoo?

Past perfect examples

  • How many times had you been to Canada before you moved there?
  • Why hadntyour mother played any othersports before she startedsoftball?
  • WhenhadHarry Potter used magicbefore he went to Hogwarts?

Past perfect continuous examples

  • How often had your mother been practicing softball before she joined the team?
  • Why hadnt she been working for the government before she ranfor president?
  • What had the dog been eatingbefore he got sick?

Future simple examples

  • When will you call me tomorrow, in the morning or after work?
  • Wherewill the city government build a new parking lot?
  • How much will you pay your daughter tocut the grass?

Future continuous examples

  • Where will you be staying when you go to the beach for vacation?
  • Where will you be living twoyears from now?
  • Why will you be sleeping tomorrow afternoon?

Future perfect examples

Remember that these final two tenses are much less common. If you use them, include more context information.

  • Why wont you have lived here long enough to vote in the next election?
  • When will you have finished the marathon?

Future perfect continuous examples

  • How long will youhave been living hereby the time youre able to vote?
  • How will you have been running in the marathon for sixhours by this time tomorrow?

A Note About Negative Questions

Normally, we dont make yes/no questions into negative questions because it makes them too confusing. But its no problem to make wh- questions negative.

To make a negative question, you just have to add not to the sentence. There are two basic possibilities:

1. As a contractionwiththe auxiliary.

This is muchmore common, especially in spoken English. Its also used often withthe question word why. For example:

  • Why dont you speak Japanese?
  • Why hasnt your cousin called me yet?
  • Why wont you come to my birthday party?

2. As not, after the subject.

This sounds a little more formal, but you can definitely use it if youre not comfortable with contractions. For example:

  • Why do you not speak Japanese?
  • Why has your cousin not called me yet?
  • When are younotbusy?

Famous songs and books with wh- questions

There are also many songs and books that have wh- questions in their titles. Here are some good ones.

Songs

  • How Can You Mend aBroken Heart? byAl Green
    (Present simple)
  • Where Did All the Love Go?by Kasabian
    (Past simple)
  • How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel? byMorrissey
    (Present simple)
  • When Will I See You Again? byThe Three Degrees
    (Future simple  This song also has many other questions in the lyrics.)

Books

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? byBill Martin Jr.
    (Present simple)
  • Who Moved My Cheese? bySpencer Johnson
    (Past simple)

Want to learn with more videos like these? You can watch native English videos like the ones above with interactive subtitles on FluentU.

Search for the wh- word you want to practice on FluentU (or any other word) and youll see all the videos where the word appears. Then, you just have to pick the one that interests you the most, among movie trailers, music videos, funny commercials, news clips and more.

FluentUs videos have interactive subtitles, so you can look up translations while you watch. This way, you can better remember any questions and phrases you heard in the videos because you saw them used in context.

You can also save words as flashcards, so you can make question word flashcard decks then practice them with personalized quizzes. FluentU can be used in your browser or you can take it with you wherever you go on the iOS or Android apps.

3. Tag Questions

This is the final type of question well look at today. Normally you use tag questions to confirm information that you think is correct. Theycome at the end of a statement.

These can be a bitdifficult for many English learners, but native English speakers use them all the time.

When should I use tag questions?

If I want to knowbasic information, I can ask a yes/no question:

Do you speak Chinese?

I can also ask wh- questions for more information:

How often do you speak Chinese?

But if I think something is true, but Im not 100% certain, I can ask a tag question:

You speak Chinese, dont you?

Notice that the structure is verydifferent from the other two types of questions.

How do I form tag questions?

This can get complicated, but basically there are two parts: (1) the statement and (2) the tag.

If the statement is positive, the tag is negative:

Youve seen the new Star Wars movie, havent you?

And if the statement is negative, the tag is positive.

You havent seen the new Star Wars movie yet, have you?

The statements and tags should be in the same tense. Both of these examples are in the present perfect.

You alsoneed to decide what tag to use. If you have a statement that uses an auxiliary (usually forms of do, have, beand modal verbs likecan, might, will,etc.), then use the opposite auxiliary in the tag.

Here are a few examples:

That building was built last year, wasnt it?

The car wasnt in the garage, was it?

You will go to the party, wont you?

It has taken a long time to plan the party, hasnt it?

Its hot today, isnt it?

If there is no auxiliary in the statement, you should use the form of the verb to do that matches the tense in the statement in the tag. For example:

You like pizza, dont you?

His uncle works in the airport, doesnt he?

You went to Bermuda last year, didnt you?

We havent studied tag questions yet, have we?

Again, remember that tag questions use question marks (?), but theyre not actually asking questions. Theyre just trying to get confirmation or make conversation.

So, did you understand all of that? Are you going topractice asking some questions right now? You can do it, cant you?

Thanks for reading, and happy questioning!


Ryan Sitzman teaches English and sometimes German in Costa Rica. He is passionate about learning, coffee, traveling, languages, writing, photography, books and movies, but not necessarily in that order. You can learn more or connect with him through his website Sitzman ABC.

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