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Questions in English language

A question is a linguistic expression used to make a request for information, information that is given in form of an answer.

Word order in questions

In questions the order of the words is slightly different than their order in sentences. In many cases questions require the use of an auxiliary verb. There are two ways of forming questions in English language.

Questions formed with do/does/did in simple present and past

(1)question word + (2)Auxiliary + (3)Subject + (4)base form (verb)

Do(2) you(3) like Vietnamese food(4)?
Does(2) Tuan(3) live in Hanoi(4)?
Where(1) do(2) you(3) live(4)?
What kind of food(1) does(2) Tuan(3) like(4)?

Questions formed with be, present continuous and "going to"

In questions with "be" everything you have to do is invert the subject’s position with the verb’s position (inversion).

(1)question word + (2)be + (3)subject + (4)adjective, noun, verb+ing, etc

Is(2) Nhi(3) a student(4)?
What(1) are(2) they(3) doing(4)?
What(1) are(2) you(3) talking about(4)?
Where(1) is(2) he(3) going to live(4)?

If a verb is followed by a preposition (listen to, talk about etc), the preposition goes at the end of the question. (What are you talking about?) You should NOT say: (About what are you talking?)

Questions with and without auxiliaries

Questions in English language can be formed with or without auxiliaries.

Questions with auxiliaries

To make questions in the simple present and simple past, we normally should use "do/does" (for simple present) and "did" (for past simple). These auxiliaries in questions have to be followed by the subject and a verb in base form.

Question + Auxiliary + Subject + Verb base form

What food do you like? NOT: What food you like?
Which DVD did he buy?

Questions without auxiliaries

When a question word (such us Who? What? Which? How many?) is the subject of the verb in the question, we don’t use an auxiliary.

Who (subject) called (verb) you last night on the phone?
Who drives your car? (of course I have a driver … my driver drives the car)
What happened after the earthquake?

It is very difficult (and very strange) to stop speaking and start analyzing which word is the subject of the verb or what tense is used in the question. The best way to get use with these rules is to memorize them, then write down as many questions as you can (using simple present and simple past). Once you have the questions on a piece of paper everything you have to do is to correct them and find out where and why you made mistakes. Do this several times and soon you wont make any mistake.

Rhetorical questions - Another kind of question

Rhetorical questions are questions that don’t require an answer. These questions are asked for effect without expecting an answer.

A: Hey, your computer doesn’t work well!
B: Oh my God! How can it be possible? I have just formatted it.

As you can see in the example, “How can it be possible?” is a question. Speaker B doesn’t expect any answer from speaker A; he is just surprised because the computer doesn’t work well.

Other examples of rhetorical questions:
What can I do now?
“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?”
How come no one ever says, “It’s only a game” when their team is winning?

Rhetorical questions can express a negative assertion, a metaphor etc.

Rhetorical questions as the name says are questions. Normally a question should end with question mark (?) and rhetorical questions do end with question mark. However, rhetorical questions can end in exclamation mark , or as I was told they can end with a full stop too.

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