Posted by: Idioma Extra | November 4, 2010

Thursday Tidbit

Auxiliary verbs in questions

One confusing aspect for English language students is determining the correct auxiliary verb in questions, particularly do, have, and be, and their correct form. The good news is that it is really quite simple to determine the correct auxiliary. There are many possible auxiliary verbs in questions, but here we will focus specifically on do, have, and, be. The key is to identify the form of the principle verb in the question.

Auxiliary verb “be”

Whenever the principle verb in a question is in –ing form, the auxiliary will always be “be.”


What time are you leaving the office?

Who were you talking to?

Auxiliary verb “have”

When the principle verb form is in the past participle form (-ed or irregular), the auxiliary verb will be some form of “have.”


What jobs have you applied for?

Has she taken the test yet?

Auxiliary verb “do”

Finally, when the principle verb is in simple form, the auxiliary verb will usually* be some form of “do”.


When does she go to the gym?

Where did you eat last night?

* When the verb is in simple form, other possible auxiliary verbs may be should, can, will, would, etc., depending on the idea you want to express.

Check Yourself

Look at the following questions and choose the correct auxiliary verb to complete the question (be, have, or do). Also pay attention to the correct form (third person, past tense, etc.) There may be instances where there is more than one possibility, depending on the meaning.

1. When ____ she picking him up?

2. When ____ you arrive home yesterday?

3. How much pizza _____ you eaten?

4. When ____ she leave for her vacation?

5. How many countries ____ they seen?

6. When ____ you have dance classes?

7. How long _____ you been waiting here?

8. What time ____ the flight arrive yesterday?

9. What ____ she doing when you called yesterday?

10. How much detergent ____ you put in the machine?

Answers to last week’s Check Yourself:

In each of the following sentences, underline the word in parenthesis that has the same sound as the italicized word.

1. Does (was / flows) he see the bass (gas / face) in the lake?

2. Yesterday I read (feed / said) that Pearl Jam will be performing live (dive / forgive) in Costa Rica next month.

3. I saw a tear (near / where) in his eye when the dove (stove / love) flew into his head.

4. You should always close (dose / knows) your eyes and bow (grow / how) when in the presence of a king.

5. I need to read (bed / seed) the directions on how to wind (kind / thinned) my watch.

6. I drew a picture of a bass (gas / case) with a lead (feed / head) pencil.

7. Please close (knows / dose) the door so the wind (mind / sinned) doesn’t enter.

8. I dove (stove / love) into a lake that is near where I live (give / five).


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