Present Simple Questions

By | April 25, 2013

Present simple questions are used to ask questions about things in general. We use them to ask about daily habits and activities that happen repeatedly or about facts and other things.

Moreover, we use the present simple to ask questions about actions that are permanent or long-lasting and we also use it to ask about feelings, opinions and states of minds as well as timetables and schedules. Read more about present simple uses.

This blog post is all about asking questions in the present simple. If you want to read about making statements and sentences in the present simple you can read this blog post titled Present Simple Statements. Furthermore, this blog post has been divided into three categories. Firstly, asking questions in the present simple using the verb ‘be’ and secondly, you will find a discussion about verbs in general. Finally you will find information about using modal verbs when forming present simple questions.

HabitsFeelings/Opinions
Do you smoke cigarettes?Do you love me?
What time do you usually wake up?Do you like pizza?
Repeated ActionsTimetables/Schedules
Does she walk to school?What time does the train leave?
What day does he play football?What time does the bus arrive?
Facts/Truth
Is it sunny today?
When does the shop open?

Present Simple Questions using the verb ‘be’?

The verb ‘be’ can be changed to am/is/are. We use a different form of the verb depending on the the subject. Whether is it plural, singular, or the third person. You only use one verb in this simple sentence, the object that follows the subject with cannot be another verb. For example, you can’t say “Am I play football?”. If you said “Am I playing football?”, this would be a present continuous question.

Yes/No Questions

AffirmativeNegative
Verb (be) + Subject + ObjectVerb (be) + Subject + Not + Object
Am I hungry?Am I not hungry?
Are we hungry?Are we not hungry?
Are they hungry?Are they not hungry?
Is he hungry?Is he not hungry?
Is she hungry?Is she not hungry?
Is it hungry?Is it not hungry?
Are you hungry?Are you not hungry?

Here the answer is either yes or not. For example, if somebody asked you “are they hungry? you have 2 possible answers:

  • Yes, they are hungry.
  • No, they are not hungry.

There is often some confusion about how to answer negative questions, but in this instance you would answer exactly the same as an affirmative question.

Wh Questions

You can’t can’t answer yes or no to ‘wh’ questions. To form a Wh question, you must put where, what, why, who, when or how before the verb ‘be’. In the following table, we’ll use ‘why’ as an example, but you could replace ‘why’ with any ‘wh’ word. Although sometimes, the question might be an odd or confusing question. For example, although the following question is grammatically correct, you wouldn’t normally ask “Where am I hungry?” because the answer is obvious. You’d be hungry in your stomach!

AffirmativeNegative
Wh Question + Verb (be) + Subject + ObjectWh Question + Verb (be) + Subject + Not + Object
Why am I hungry?Why am I not hungry?
Why are we hungry?Why are we not hungry?
Why are they hungry?Why are they not hungry?
Why is he hungry?Why is he not hungry?
Why is she hungry?Why is she not hungry?
Why is it hungry?Why is it not hungry?
Why are you hungry?Why are you not hungry?

Present Simple Questions Using Verbs

Unlike, present simple statements, we will include the verb ‘have’ with normal verbs because they behave in exactly the same way. To make the question form of the present simple tense, we use ‘do’ or ‘does’ before the subject. You can use any verb here, including the verb ‘have’.

Yes/No Questions

AffirmativeNegative
Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Verb + ObjectAuxiliary Verb + Subject + Not + Verb + Object
Do I play football?Do I not play football?
Do we play football?Do we not play football?
Do they play football?Do they not play football?
Does he play football?Does he not play football?
Does she play football?Does she not play football?
Does it play football?Does it not play football?
Do you play football?Do you not play football?

However, if you want to use a contraction for the negative form of the question, you must change the order of the words slightly.

Don’t I play football?

Don’t we play football?

Don’t they play football?

Doesn’t he play football?

Doesn’t she play football?

Doesn’t it play football?

Don’t you play football?

As you can see in this example you can see that the contracted form changes slightly. The word ‘not’ now appears before the subject in the contracted form.

Wh Questions

Again, with Wh questions, you can’t answer yes or no. To form a Wh question, you must put where, what, why, who, when or how before the auxiliary verb. In the following table, we’ll use ‘why’ as an example, but you could replace ‘why’ with any ‘wh’ word. Although sometimes, the question might be an odd or confusing question. For example, although the following question is grammatically correct, you wouldn’t normally ask “What do you play football?” but you might ask “What do you have?” as a question!

AffirmativeNegative
Wh Question + Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Verb + ObjectWh Question + Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Not + Verb + Object
Why do I play football?Why do I not play football?
Why do we play football?Why do we not play football?
Why do they play football?Why do they not play football?
Why does he play football?Why does he not play football?
Why does she play football?Why does she not play football?
Why does it play football?Why does it not play football?
Why do you play football?Why do you not play football?

Here is the contraction for the negative form of the question.

Why don’t I play football?

Why don’t we play football?

Why don’t they play football?

Why doesn’t he play football?

Why doesn’t she play football?

Why doesn’t it play football?

Why don’t you play football?

Present Simple Questions Using Modal Verbs

It is important to discuss modal verbs when making questions in the present simple because they behave differently, questions are made by inversion. Here is a list of modal verbs in English.

cancouldmaymightwill
wouldmustshallshouldought to

The modal verb ‘ought to’ is very rarely used in present simple questions. If it is used then the word ‘to’ is removed. For example, “Ought she be hungry?”

The structure of the question is the same when using any verb in English, whether it’s the verb ‘be’, ‘have’ or any other verb. Here we will use the verb ‘be’ as an example, but you could replace it with any English verb.

AffirmativeNegative
Modal Verb + Subject + Verb + ObjectModal Verb + Subject + Not + Verb + Object
Could I be hungry?Could I not be hungry?
Could we be hungry?Could we not be hungry?
Could they be hungry?Could they not be hungry?
Could he be hungry?Could he not be hungry?
Could she be hungry?Could she not be hungry?
Could it be hungry?Could it not be hungry?
Could you be hungry?Could you not be hungry?

Use of Present Simple Questions

As stated above present simple questions are used to ask questions about things in general. We use them to ask about daily habits and activities that happen repeatedly or about facts and other things. We use the present simple to ask questions about actions that are permanent or long-lasting. We also use it to ask about feelings, opinions and states of minds as well as timetables and schedules.

Glossary

Modal verb

Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs, sometimes known as helping verbs. They express things like possibility, probability, permission and obligation.

Object

The object is someone’s or something’s involvement in the subject’s performance of the verb.

Subject

The subject is the person, place or thing that is doing or being as defined by a particular verb.

Verb

A verb is an action word. It is used to describe an action, a state of mind or an occurrence.

Plural

A plural word or form means more than 1 in number.

Singular

Singular means only 1 in number.

Third-Person

A third-person designates a person or thing other than the speaker or the one being spoken to.

Inversion

Inversion is a reversal of normal word order. This normally happens when the verb is placed ahead of the subject.

Author: William Lake

I've been teaching English as a second language for a number of years. I'm currently teaching in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can find me on Google Plus, Twitter and LinkedIn and StumbleUpon.

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