Word Order in Questions (1)

Yes-No Questions: A Mixed-Up Sentence Exercise

Native speakers of English might wish to learn about yes-no questions for two main reasons. First, when reading aloud, we need to know that the only question marks that require us to raise our voices are those that can be answered with "yes" or "no." The voice rises at the end of "Are you going to the dance?" but normally drops at the end of "Where were you on July 13?" Second, once we know consciously how we form questions ourselves, we will be less puzzled by minor differences between the way we form questions and the habits of older authors and people from different parts of the English-speaking world.

All yes-no questions begin with the part of the verb that carries the tense marker:

    Statement: The smoke stack is still belching smoke. (Or "The smoke stack was still belching smoke.")
    Yes-No Question: Is the smoke stack still belching smoke? (Or "Was the smoke stack still belching smoke?")

    Statement: He has taken the dog for a walk. (Or "He will take. . . .")
    Yes-No Question: Has he taken the dog for a walk? (Or "Will he take. . . ?")

In Shakespeare's day, the entire verb could be placed before the subject:

    Keep you the watch tonight? (=Are you on duty as guard tonight?)

Even fifty years ago, you could still put forms of to have in front of the subject:

    Have you any bananas?

Today, though, we place an auxiliary verb at the head of the sentence, not the whole verb:

    Are you keeping the watch tonight?

If there is no auxiliary verb in the statement form of the idea, we insert a form of do:

    Do you keep the watch tonight?
    Do you have any bananas?

Today, the only WHOLE verb that ever begins a question is the verb to be in its various forms:

    Statement: She is a pixie.
    Question: Is she a pixie?

And regularization is on the way even for this exception, for certain forms of nonstandard English insert an auxiliary verb even before forms of to be, as in "Do you be sure of that?"

Your Task: Scroll to the foot of the screen. Drag and drop the parts of the following statement into the form of a yes-no question. When you think your sentence is correct, click on "Check" to check your answer. If you get stuck, click on "Hint" to find out the next correct part.

                    The workmen have finished laying the sidewalk.