English Grammar Tenses – Ask Questions 2

In the section Questions 1, we looked at how to ask direct questions. To make a question, we invert the order of the subject and the first auxiliary verb. 

  • Where is Johnny?
  • Has he found it yet?

If there is no auxiliary, use part of the verb ‘to do’. For example:

  • What time did he arrive?
  • How often do you play tennis?

However, when we ask for information, we often say ‘Do you know…?’ or ‘Could you tell me….?’ These are indirect questions and more polite. 

Note that the word order is different. For example:

  • Do you know where Johnny is?
  • Have you any idea if he has found it?

Note that we don’t use do, does or did. For example:

  • Could you tell me what time he arrived?
  • Would you mind telling me how often you play tennis?

Use if or whether when there is no question word.

  • Has he done it? = Do you know if he has done it?
  • Is it ready? = Can you tell me if it is ready?

The same changes in word order happen when we report questions. Note that in reported questions, the verb changes to the past:

  • What are you doing? = He asked me what I was doing. 
  • What have you done about it? = He asked me what I had done about it.
  • Do you work with Pamela? = He asked me if I worked with Pamela.