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Where Did You Learn English? Forming Questions, Part 3

Everyday Grammar: Object Questions
Everyday Grammar: Object Questions
Where Did You Learn English? Forming Questions, Part 3
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Imagine you are meeting a group of English learners to practice your speaking skills. The group leader puts everyone into small practice groups. The people in your group begin to ask each other questions. Here are some questions you might hear or ask:

What do you like doing for fun?
When did you come to the U.S.?
Where did you learn English?

Object questions

These are all examples of object questions, and we are going to tell you about them today.

Object questions are sometimes called “wh-questions” or “five w” questions” because they begin with one of five “wh” words: “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “why.” They can also begin with “how,” “how much” or “how many.”

What is QUASM?

There is a simple, dependable pattern to remember when forming object questions. It is called QUASM and it works for most verb tenses. The QU in QUASM stands for “question word.” The A stands for “auxiliary verb.” You may recall that auxiliary verbs are helping verbs – such as “do” “be” and “have”—that we use to form questions and verb tenses. The S in QUASM stands for “subject.” And the M stands for “main verb.”​

​Let’s see how QUASM applies to object questions in a few verb tenses.

Simple present

In the simple present and simple past tenses, we use a form of the verb “do” as the auxiliary verb.

Here are some object questions in the simple present tense.

What do Americans eat for breakfast?
Where does she go to school?

Now, we’ll find QUASM in one of these examples. In the question “What do Americans eat for breakfast?” our question word is “what”; the auxiliary verb is “do”; the subject is “Americans”; and the main verb is “eat.”

Simple past

Moving on to simple past, the form of “do” will always be “did,” which is the past tense. Here are some examples. Listen for the QUASM pattern in each and make a note of the question word, auxiliary verb, subject and main verb:

Where did you learn English?
How did you make that dish?

How much / How many

As we said earlier, object questions can also begin with “how much” or “how many.” We often use these phrases for questions in simple present or simple past verb.

And, there is usually a noun after the phrase and before the auxiliary verb. Listen to two examples:

How much money did you spend on fall clothes?
How many cards do I have in my hand?

In these questions, the nouns “cards” and “money” do not affect the QUASM pattern. You can think of the phrases how much- or how many + noun as the QU in QUASM.

Other verb tenses

So, what about object questions in other verb tenses? How do you choose an auxiliary verb for them? The answer is easy: use whichever auxiliary verb that the verb tense uses.

For example, we form the present continuous tense with the auxiliary verb be + -ing. In object questions, we put this verb tense into the QUASM pattern. Listen for the pattern in these questions:

Where are you going for Thanksgiving?
Why is everyone standing around?

You can still hear the be + -ing verb tense, but it is separated by the subject.

Unlike the simpler tenses, some complex verb tenses in English, such as the perfect continuous tenses, have two auxiliary verbs. Object questions in such tenses do not follow the QUASM pattern. The question “What has she been studying to prepare for the test?” is an example. The auxiliary verbs “has” and “been” are separated by the subject.

For the purpose of today’s program, we will not focus on these complex verb tenses.

QUASM for modals

OK, here’s something a lot simpler: modals verbs, also called “modals” or “modal auxiliaries.” We sometimes call them “modal auxiliaries” because they are a kind of helping verb. Modals include “can” “could” “should” “might” “would” and many more.

Object questions containing modals also follow the QUASM pattern. Listen for the pattern in these examples:

Where should I drop off my dry cleaning?
How can we improve our customer service?

OK, that’s our time for today. If you made it to the end of this three-part series, congratulations! Now, I have three questions for you:

What did you learn in this three-part series?
Who can help you practice forming questions?
Do you know what kinds of questions each of these is?

For practice exercises and more, visit our website.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

practice – v. to do something again and again in order to become better at it

pattern – n. the regular and repeated way in which something happens or is done

phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

focus – v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

modal verb – n. a verb that is usually used with another verb to express ideas such as possibility, necessity, and permission

dry cleaning n. clothing or cloth items that need to be or have been dry-cleaned

customer n. someone who buys goods or services from a business


Practice Exercises

Now, you try it! Use these practice exercises to help you improve at forming object questions. Write your responses in the Comments area.

1 - Make these statements into object questions. You can use the QUASM pattern to help you.

I work at Voice of America. (where)
Where do you work? (answer)

We are meeting at 4pm for dinner. (when)
You should bring fruit salad to the party. (what)
You can improve your English by practicing every day. (how)
My friend said we could use her camping gear. (what)
I bought this painting at an art show in Maryland. (where)
He was singing in the rain this morning. (why)
Bobby has two children. (how many)
You need two cups of sugar for the cake. (how many)

2 - Practice saying the example questions from today’s program. Doing this can help the pattern and sound of object questions feel much more natural to you.

Object Question Examples




Main Verb





for breakfast?





that dish?

How many cards




in my hand?





for Thanksgiving?





our customer service?

Forming Questions
Parts 1, 2 and 3

Subject Questions

who/which/what + main verb + object

Who called you?

Which motorbike gets the best mileage?

Object Questions

QUASM = question word + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb

Where did you get those shoes?

Why is everyone standing around?

Yes / No Questions

ASM = auxiliary + subject + main verb

Did you watch the Emmy Awards last night?

Does this color look good on me?