English Level: Intermediate
Language Focus: An explanation of how to form Yes/No questions in English
Grammar Worksheet: yes-no-questions-worksheet-esl.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)
Many students are good at answering questions, but poor at making their own questions (with correct grammar). If you have problems forming (making) questions, then this lesson is for you! After this lesson, Lesson 2 explains WH-Questions like what and who.
Can you form a question?
Introduction to Yes/No Questions
A Yes/No question is a question that has a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. For example,
Question: Are you hungry?
Answer: No, I’m not.
(The other main type of questions are WH-Questions (where, who, what, why, etc.) that will be covered in the next lesson.)
Let’s review the rules of making Yes/No Questions
1. Making Yes/No Questions with the BE Verb (am/are/is/was/were)
Imagine a regular sentence with the BE verb, such as ‘He is tall.’ Like usual, this sentence starts with the subject and the verb comes next. This is called sentence word order in English.
To make a question from a sentence with the BE verb, we use question word order. You can do this by switching the subject and the BE verb around:
- He is tall. → Is he tall? (In the question, the verb is first and then the subject)
- They are American. → Are they American?
- The children are at school. → Are the children at school?
The rules are the same for the past tense.
- It was nice. → Was it nice?
- New York was expensive. → Was New York expensive?
- We were late. → Were we late?
Let’s do some practice exercises.
Exercise #1: Yes/No Questions with the BE Verb
Change these sentences into question form. Make a Yes/No question.
- The school is open. → ?
- The waiter was rude. → ?
- Yoga is popular. → ?
- I am sick. → ?
- You were tired. → ?
- Sarah was his teacher. → ?
In the next exercise, look at the answer to a question. Then write the question. For example,
- Q: _____________? A: Yes, John is a doctor.
(The question was “Is John a doctor”).
Exercise #2: Yes/No Questions with the BE Verb
(Note: It does not matter if the answer is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ — the question form is the same. Do not put ‘not’ in the question.)
- Q: ? A: Yes. I was there.
- Q: ? A: No, we were not rich.
- Q: ? A: Yes, today is my birthday.
- Q: ? A: No, the price was not the same.
2. Making Yes/No Questions with Auxiliary/Modal Verbs
An auxiliary verb is also called a helping verb. These are short words that ‘help’ the main verb create tense. For example,
I have written the report. (Present Perfect tense)
Here, ‘have‘ is the auxiliary verb, which is helping the main verb ‘write’ change into the present perfect tense. Modal verbs, such as can, must, should, might, may, are also helping verbs. Here are some more examples:
- I was writing
- I am writing.
- I will write.
- I can write.
- I should write.
Sentences always have a main verb. But if a sentence also has a helping verb (auxiliary or modal), then switch the subject and the helping verb around. For example,
- He will come. → Will he come?
- They are visiting Paris. → Are they visiting Paris?
- She has done the housework. → Has she done the housework
Sometimes, a sentence can have two helping verbs. If this is the case, change the order of the subject and first helping verb in the same way. Then after the subject, put the second helping verb.
- John has been fired. → Has John been fired? (HelpingVerb1 + Subject + HelpingVerb2+ Main Verb)
- They will be hired. → Will they be hired?
- The train is going to arrive. → Is the train going to arrive?
- The printer was being repaired. → Was the printer being repaired?
In other words, when you change a sentence from sentence word order (Subject + Verb) to question word order (Verb + Subject), switch the subject with the first helping verb. If there is another helping verb, put it after the subject.
This isn’t so easy. Let’s practice.
Exercise #3: Yes/No Questions with Auxiliary/Modal Verbs
- John can read. → ?
- It might be broken. → ?
- We will join. → ?
- Peter is going to go. → ?
- Luan is going to be hired. → ?
- He is being interviewed now. → ?
- He should practice more. → ?
- Cars are made here. → ?
- The order has been approved. → ?
Exercise #4: Yes/No Questions with Auxiliary/Modal Verbs
- Q: ? A: Yes, she was going to visit.
- Q: ? A: Yes, your name is being called.
- Q: ? A: No, they haven’t finished.
- Q: ? A: No, he has not been working here.
- Q: ? A: No, he could not have said that.
- Q: ? A: No, he would not have been angry.
- Q: ? A: Yes, a visa must be obtained first.
- Q: ? A: Yes, we shall attend.
We’re almost done!
3. Making Yes/No Questions without the BE verb or an Auxiliary/Modal Verb (Use Do!)
Up to now, we have practiced making questions from sentences that have the BE verb or a helping (auxiliary/modal) verb. However, there are some sentences that have neither. For example,
- I have a problem. (The main verb is have, and there is no helping verb)
- She loves tennis. (The main verb is loves, and there is no helping verb)
- They found the answer. (Again, there is only the main verb found.)
So, how do we form a question then? We add the verb ‘Do’! ‘Do’ is another helping verb that we add to make questions when there is no auxiliary verb already (or BE Verb). The above sentences become the following questions:
- I have a problem. → Do you have a problem?
- She loves tennis. → Does she love tennis?
- They found the answer. → Did they find the answer?
Note two things. Firstly, in question #2, do changes to Does in the question because the subject is ‘she’, which is the third person singular, so we add ‘s’ to the auxiliary verb ‘do’ (but not to the main verb!).
Secondly, sentence #3 is in the past tense (found), so we change the helping verb “Do” to the past tense (= Did) and keep the main verb in its base form (the present tense).
Did they find the answer? (Correct)
Did they found the answer? (Incorrect = You don’t need the past tense twice.)
Be Careful: Distinguishing Main Verbs from Helping Verbs
It’s important to remember the difference between a main verb and a helping verb because verbs like ‘do/have/will’ can be a main verb and an auxiliary verb. Look at these sentences:
- She has a job. (present simple) → Does she have a job?
- She has had a job. (present perfect) → Has she had a job?
In #1, the main verb is ‘has‘ and there is no auxiliary verb, so we add ‘Does‘ to make the question ‘Does she have a job?‘
In #2, the main verb is ‘had‘, and there is an auxiliary verb ‘has‘. So we switch the sentence order and put the auxiliary verb before the subject, to make the question, ‘Has she had a job’?
Final Note: Use ‘Do’ when ‘Have’ is the Main Verb
A long time ago, people used to ask questions like this:
- Have you a car?
- Have you a problem?
This is now old-fashioned and out of use. In North America, we add ‘Do’ to make a question when the main verb is ‘have’.
Have you a car= Do you have a car? Have you a problem= Do you have a problem?
(Note: In England, it is common to use ‘have + got’ instead of ‘Do you have’. For example: ‘Have you got a car? / Have you got a pen?. This is also grammatically correct.)
Let’s do some exercises to practice this last point.
Exercise #5: Yes/No Questions without Helping or BE Verb
- He reads every day. → ?
- The printer broke. → ?
- We want more money. → ?
- She had a smile on her face. → ?
- The boss noticed the mistake. → ?
Exercise #6: Yes/No Questions without a Helping or BE Verb
- Q: ? A: Yes, she had her camera.
- Q: ? A: No, I didn’t feel sick.
- Q: ? A: Yes, we eat beef.
- Q: ? A: Yes, I believe you.
- Q: ? A: No, they didn’t forget their tickets.
Forming Yes/No Questions: Summary
We have learned three key rules for making Yes/No questions:
- If the sentence has only the BE verb, switch the subject and the BE verb around to make a question.
- If the sentence has a helping verb, switch the subject and the (first) helping verb around to make a question.
- If there is neither the BE verb or a helping verb, add ‘Do‘ and then the subject to make a question.
It’s time to mix it all together. Try to remember these rules and complete the practice exercises below.
Exercise #7: Yes/No Questions – Mixed Forms
- She is a good person. → ?
- They are studying hard. → ?
- I don’t want a drink. → ?
- The book was sold. → ?
- My dog barks loudly. → ?
- We are going to try it. → ?
Exercise #8: Yes/No Questions – Without a Helping or BE Verb
- Q: ? A: Yes, we are looking for the keys.
- Q: ? A: No, I haven’t seen Michael.
- Q: ? A: No, they won’t be happy.
- Q: ? A: Yes, I do yoga.
- Q: ? A: Yes, he has had surgery.
- Q: ? A: No, they were not waiting long.
- Q: ? A: Yes, they danced well.
Exercise #9: Yes/No Questions – Fix the Common Mistakes
Each question has a mistake. Rewrite the question without the mistake.
- Have you a dog? → ?
- You will go to the park? → ?
- Did you went to the park? → ?
- It is 4 o’clock? → ?
- Are you agree? → ?
If you find a mistake or have a question, please leave a comment below. Teachers, you can download the exercises as a worksheet (see the link at the very top).
– Written by Matthew Barton (copyright) / Creator of Englishcurrent.com