This week we answer a question from Yang in China. Yang writes,
I'm confused with the be verb and the do verb. Which one should I use, especially when making a question? – Yang, China
Do you want to learn how to ask questions with ? Are you learning about the be verb, too? I just used those verbs to ask you questions!
Be and do are called auxiliary or “helping” verbs. That means they help make questions or negative statements with main verbs.
Do as an Auxiliary Verb
To answer your question, let us start with the auxiliary verb do.
Use do when you make a question in the simple present tense.* In the following questions, the main verb does not change.
What do you want to eat? (“want” is the main verb)
Does she like her job?
You also can use do to ask a question in the simple past tense. Use the past tense, “did” with the main verb, as in these questions.
Did you eat pizza yesterday? (“eat” is the main verb)
Which car did you buy?
Use the helping verb do when using “not” in a question or statement in the simple present or past. Here are two examples:
Why don’t you ask her?
Didn’t he go to the party?
BE as an auxiliary verb
Use be when you want to make a question in the present continuous or past continuous tense. The continuous form of English verbs adds the letters ‘i-n-g’ to the end of the main verb and be matches the subject. These questions can be negative, too.
Are you thinking about the Christmas party?
Were they making dinner when you arrived?
Isn’t she driving home now?
There is one more auxiliary verb in English, the word have. We will talk about how to use have another time.
And that is Ask a Teacher.
Do you have a question for the VOA English teachers? You can ask us about anything related to learning Engish. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
tense - n. a form of a verb that is used to show when an action happened
negative – n. a word or statement that means “no” or that expresses a denial or refusal
match – v. to be in agreement with
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