Yes/No Questions

'Do you like English?' 'Are you making progress?' 'Have these lessons been helping you?' If you want to learn about how to make yes/no questions, read this.

Intermediate
"Yes/No Questions" in the English Grammar

What Are Yes/No Questions?

Yes/No questions need either a yes or a no answer. Because of this limitation in response, they are also called closed questions.

Forming Yes/No Questions with Auxiliary Verbs

In order to form a Yes/No Question, we must use one of these verb:

Structure

an auxiliary verb (be, do or have) + subject + main verb
or
a modal verb + subject + main verb

Present Past
Be Is she a nurse? Were you in Vermont?
Have Have they arrived yet? Had you visited Paris before?
Do Do you like pizza? Did you see that movie?
Modals Could you help me with this? Should I call my boss?

When we do not have 'Be' or 'have' or 'modal verb' in the sentence, we must use the auxiliary do, does, did.

No Auxiliary Using Auxiliary
We usually go to the park. Do you usually go to the park?
He liked ice cream a lot. Did you like ice cream a lot?

'Be' as a Main Verb

Do not use an auxiliary verb when 'be' is the main verb of our sentence.

She is my sister. → Is she your sister? (Do not say "Does she be your sister?")

What If We have More Than One Auxiliary Verb?

If you have more than one auxiliary verb or a modal verb + one or more auxiliary verbs, only put the first auxiliary or the modal verb before the subject and the others after it.

Structure

auxiliary verb (1) + subject + auxiliary verb (2) + main verb

Is my mobile being monitored?

Has the show been canceled?

Structure

modal verb + subject + auxiliary verb (1) + auxiliary verb (2) + main verb

Should I have been recording this show? (Do not say: Should have I been recording this show?)

Warning

Never put the main verb before the subject (only put auxiliary and modal verbs before it).

Where did he hide the box? (Do not say: Where did hide he the box?)

Without an Auxiliary Verb

When you want to ask Yes/No questions using 'be' as the main verb, do not use an auxiliary verb.

Structure

The word order is: be + subject

Is the food nice in this restaurant?

Was he upset when you told her the truth about that incident?

When the main verb of our Yes/No question is the verb 'have', we can also use the word order verb + subject, but note that it sounds rather formal.

Have you a driver's license?

This sentence sounds formal.

If you want to sound more informal or neutral, you can use 'have got' or 'do.'

Do you have a driver's license?

This sentence sounds neutral.

Have you got a driver's license?

This sentence sounds informal.

Tip

If 'have' is used as a main verb and we want to ask questions in the past about possession, use the auxiliary verb 'did' rather than 'had ... got'.

Did you have your ID with you?

This sentence sounds more natural.

Had you got your ID with you?

This sentence is less common.

How to Answer a Yes/No Question?

an example of a yes/no question

Short Answer

Other than saying 'yes' or 'no' to answer a Yes/No question, there are some other more informal alternatives.

Instead of Yes Instead of No
yeah nah
yep nope

'Is he really your son?' 'yep!'

'Can you do the dishes?' 'Nah! I'm busy!'

Long Answer

Occasionally, in more formal situations, we use yes/no + subject + verb.

'Have you seen Jennifer?' 'No, I haven't.'

'Are you Liza?' 'Yes, I am.'

Or even longer answers, like:

'Have you seen Jennifer?' 'No, I haven't. I haven't seen her all day.'

'Are you Liza?' 'Yes, I am. I am Liza Clarkson.'

Sometimes we can add more information to the single yes or no answer.

'Do you want to come to the party with me?' Yeah. Actually, I'm getting ready as we speak.'

Sometimes we don't use yes or no as a reply but the answer that we give means yes or no:
Sometimes we can answer a yes/no question without actually saying 'yes/no'. Instead, we can say sentences that mean 'yes' or 'no'.

'Do you know Brad?' 'I've known Brad since kindergarten.' (It means Yes)

'Do we have any apples in the fridge?' 'I just ate the last one.' (It means No)

Sometimes we answer a yes/no question by using the auxiliary verb from the question instead of yes and no

'Did you call Mom today? 'I did. I called her this morning.'

Negative Yes/No Questions

Structure

We can form a negative Yes/No Question with 'not'. Normally in spoken English, we use the contraction n't. We can use the full form of 'not', but the question may sound very formal.

Isn't that Mr. Hank our English teacher?

Shouldn't we wait an hour before we go for a swim?

Negative Yes/No Questions: Uses

We usually use negative Yes/No Questions:

  1. when we want to check or confirm something we believe or know to be true;
  2. when we consider that something is the best option to do;
  3. when we want to make invitations, offers and complaints.

Isn't that the most luxurious hotel in this city?

Shouldn't we call for a cab?

Won't you stay for dinner?

Can't you speak a little louder? I can't hear a thing!

Statement Questions

Sometimes we can use declarative sentences (statements) to ask Yes/No Questions. These sentences have a different intonation when used as a statement or as a question.
In writing, we can determine this fact by putting '?' for questions or '.' for statements.

Jackson is getting married\?\

He's your brother\?\

We can have both affirmative or negative statement questions.

You're a teacher? or You're not a teacher?

Statement Questions: Uses

We use statement questions In these cases we can use falling intonation:

  • when we want to confirm or check something we know to be true (falling intonation);
  • when we want to express surprise (rising intonation).

'So, tomorrow is mother's day?'

'Manfred propose.' 'He proposed?!'

Review

Yes/ No questions are named like this because the answer to them is either 'yes' or 'no'. The general structure is to put the auxiliary (also auxiliary modal verbs) at the beginning of a sentence and then scramble the sentence, and at the end, a question mark is needed.

Here are auxiliary verbs that are used to make yes/no questions.

am is are
have has had/was/were
do does did
can could shal
should may might
will would must

Short Answers

In short answers, you have to use only the subject pronoun and the auxiliary verb. And you are not allowed to use contractions in affirmative short answers.

Is she your mother?

Yes, she is. (NOT Yes, she's.)

Look at the examples for yes/no questions.

Are they going to dinner together?

"Yes, they are. They are going to dinner together."

"No, they aren't. They aren't going to dinner together."

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