Asking Questions in English Using Helping Verbs To Be and To Do


To be or not to be? That is the question. In this episode you will learn the basic structure for asking questions in English, using the auxiliary verbs TO BE and TO DO. Hope you don’t get bored, enjoy! :)




You are listening to English Made Simple, this is Episode 32, Numero trenta y dos!

Hello? How are you all? How’s everyone doing? Qué onda?? Welcome! Welcome guys, welcome to the old and new listeners joining in to the English Made Simple Podcast, yeey! My name is Milena and here at English Made Simple I help you speak English with confidence.

So let’s do this!


Exciting stuff this week, right? New feature of English Made Simple came out, called Short and Sweet. I should say Short and Sweeeeeet!


Making it a twice per week show! Which is awesome! I’ve decided to call it Short and Sweet and please use this phrase in your daily conversations! The native speakers use it very often. I use it when I go to meetings and when I expect the meeting to be too long, all of a suddent I get pleasantly surprised when the meeting is a short one, I would then say: wow that was a short and sweet! Straight to the point.


Now be honest guys, when you first read the title of the Short and Sweet episode, did you think I was going to teach you how to make desserts in 5mins or less? Postres! Mmmmhmm Haha How many of you thought that?

My husband thought exactly this…cuz he knows love sweets!


That could be a good show but I don’t make desserts I eat them. I devour them. Los devoro! haha

And with that, we will continue with today’s episode. Welcome back!


Oh before we start, I want to say hello to Jaime and Jairo thank you guys for you nice comments, glad you are enjoying the show. Welcome aboard! Don’t forget to share with your friends, you know what they say sharing is caring!


So guys, in this episode we will learn how to construct questions. I specifically want to focus on: How to ask questions in Present and Past tense. And I would also like to introduce you to auxiliary verbs that help us ask questions in English. The verbs I want to talk about are To Be and To Do.


Remember guys, in English we say Ask Questions, NOT we Do Questions. Because I know in Spanish it’s hacer pregunta. But in English we say Ask questions. Preguntar.

An example: Can I ask you a question? Puedo hacerte una pregunta? Te puedo hacer una pregunta?

Can I ask you a question?

And here is a tip for you guys, when we write or rather type in English, because now we live in modern times, we rarely write nowadays, we type on the keyboard for example. When we type in English, we only use the question mark at the end of the question. We don’t use it at the beginning when we want to ask a question as is the case in Spanish. We just use one question mark. (Signo de interrogación). So we only use one question mark, Righto!


So today’s topic is about How to Ask Questions in English?


It was a “popular” topic asked by many listeners especially one of my listeners Nicolas who asked me this question before a few weeks back, I only got a chance now, to do the episode on it. How to ask a question in English?


Well, let’s start with asking direct questions using the verb TO BE.


Are we ready to start? I think so!


Let’s start with asking direct questions using the verb TO BE.


To be or not to be, that is the question? Have you heard of this famous line before? This famous line is from one of William Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet.


Righto, let’s continue: Back to basics, some of you will already know this. But let’s build a foundation anyway for the coming episodes.


Conjugating the verb To Be. This is the most commonly used verb in the English language, omg it’s soooo popular you know what I am saying. It’s very popular haha


Conjugating the verb TO BE:

I am, you are, he or she or it is. Then in plural we have: We are, you are, They are.

Excellent. Simple example right?


Let’s do a simple example, we start the sentence with the Subject + Verb to be


Here we go:


He is driving fast. Is he driving fast?

They are watching The Game of Thrones. Are they watching the Game of Thrones?

You are driving and listening to this podcast right now. Are you driving and listening to this podcast now?


In this case, we think about the subject. the subject: He is driving fast. HE is the subject. He is driving fast.


When we form a question, we simply swap the subject with a verb, so it becomes Conjugation of the Verb to Be + Subject.


As in my example, He is driving fast. The question becomes: Is he driving fast?

When we have the verb TO BE we simply swap the subject with the verb To BE, with the conjugation of the verb to BE.


So in the example:


They are watching Game of Thrones. Are they watching Game of Thrones?

Quite simple so far? Yeey!


Let’s continue!


You will notice that the forming of question follows the same structure, always think about the Subject. The subject being:


I, You, He She It We You They… mmmhm, Righto. Yeah? With me so far? Excellent!


Now using the verb TO BE in the past tense becomes, I was, You were, She/He/It was, We, You, They were. Ok. Let’s use the same example as previously.


He is driving fast. He was driving fast. To ask a question we simply swap the Subject with the verb Be.


He is driving fast. Is he driving fast?

He was driving fast. Was he driving fast?


Right? You see, what I am doing there? I am swapping.

She was cooking in the kitchen. Is he Past tense. The question becomes: Was she cooking in the kitchen?


She was. Yes she was. We answer with Yes, she was cooking.

He is driving fast. Yes he is!


Right. That’s the example in the past tense.


Now, let’s introduce other ways we can form a question. We can form questions using auxiliary verbs. According to, you know who! Weon Inteligente or the Cambridge dictionaries Online, defines the word Auxiliary as Giving help or support.


So, when we say auxiliary verbs, they are verbs that provide support when we need help to form tenses. We also use them for other things, like for example, when we need to ask questions.

Mhmmm. True that!

The main auxiliary verbs in English are be, do, and have.

Did you know that also in Spanish we have auxiliary verbs? One of the main one is haber. Also hacer. Ha! You see, not just English hehe

Now let’s continue.

We have already covered the verb BE.

Now let’s use the verb To DO as an auxiliary verb, Ok?


Let’s consider this sentence.


She lives in Santiago.


Another sentence.


You speak fluent Spanish.


You will notice that there is no conjugation of the verb To Be.


“She lives in Santiago” Is a statement.

“You speak fluent Spanish” is a statement.

How do we ask questions now? Hmm?


When we form a question: the auxiliary verb goes FIRST and THEN the subject. So in the previous example. See?


So In the previous example:


She lives in Santiago. Becomes Does she live Santiago?

I live in Santiago. Becomes: Do I live in Santiago?



In cases like these we must use the verb TO DO to form a question.


Let’s use this example in the past now.

She lived in Santiago. Did she live in Santiago?

You see?


She lived in Santiago. And in the past, we ask the question: Did she live in Santiago?

We use the past tense of the verb DO.


Did she live in Santiago?

Because we CANNOT invert subject in this case to form a question, we cannot say Lived she in Santiago? No, we cannot swap it! No, no, big no-no! We must use Auxiliary verb to DO in the absence of the verb To Be.


In this example.


You spoke fluent Spanish. In the past tense.

We have a subject YOU plus a verb To Speak. It’s an irregular verb so it becomes “You spoke fluent Spanish.” In the past.


Because there is no conjugation of the verb TO BE in this case, then the question must have the auxiliary verb TO DO in this case.


You speak Fluent Spanish. Becomes: Do you speak Fluent Spanish?

You spoke Fluent Spanish. Becomes: Did you speak fluent Spanish?


Are you with me so far? Fantastic! You are with me so far, wonderful!


So what happens, when we want to include question forms such as How, Why, Where, Which, What?


If we are asking questions using these words, we simply put them at the start of the question.


Here is an example:

I work at Microsoft. Where do you work?


Or in the past. I worked at Microsoft. Where did you work?


He was driving fast. Why was he driving fast? How fast was he driving?

Whose car was he driving?


Just to complicate things a bit. Did you know that Who and What can also be the subject?


Here is an example:

Who is coming to lunch? – Who is the subject here.

What happened? – What is the subject here.

What did you do? – You is the subject here.

What is another example I can give you here?

Alonso called Milena. Who called Milena?


Who is the subject in this case. Who called Milena. We don’t say: Who did call Milena?

We don’t say that!

Who called Milena? In the past tense. Who is the subject in this case.

Are you happy so far guys? Following me so far? Are you happy so far? Hopefully that made sense.

Easy peasy japanesy! Haha                                                                                                                                

I don’t want to overwhelm you in this episode, so in the next episode I want to cover another auxiliary verb to HAVE. And also I want to talk about How to ask questions in the Future.


Your homework this week, should you choose to do it, is: watch a movie in English then either talk to your friend about it or just talk to yourself if you have no friends. Start by asking questions regarding the movie. Use the words such as: Who, What, When, Why and How.


See how many questions you come up with!


Good luck! There is no test, so don’t worry, have a great week!


Don’t forget, all transcriptions are available on my website,, if you have any questions on any of the topics we covered in this show, please let me know in the Facebook Group English Made Simple or on my website. This podcast is for YOU and I am here to help you learn! So let’s do this! Arrivederci! Hasta la proxima!

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