Yes/No questions in English

Yes / No questions (closed questions)

Closed questions in English (“Yes/No”)

English is a great tool for communication, and one of the most common forms of communication is through questions. Today we will look at a special type of question known as “Yes/No” or closed questions. These are questions that can only be answered with a yes or no, and they play an important role in any conversational interaction. Let’s dive deeper and learn how to use this type of question to improve our English skills.

Why are “Yes/No” questions so important?

Closed questions allow you to get specific and clear answers. They are an effective tool for checking understanding and active participation in the conversation. These questions also help improve your listening skills as the answers can be short and to the point.

Structure of “Yes/No” questions

The structure of such a question looks very simple. Most often, it consists of an auxiliary verb (for example, “do”, “does”, “did”, “are”, “is”, “am”, “was”, “were”, etc.) and a main verb. Here are examples:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Is she coming to the party?
  • Did they finish their homework?

Hints for answers

When we answer “Yes/No” questions, we can use the same auxiliary verbs. Example:

  • Yes, I like chocolate.
  • No, she isn’t coming to the party.
  • Yes, they finished their homework.

The basic grammar you need to know when forming “Yes/No” type questions

Questions to which the answer can be “yes” or “no” are usually called closed in English because they require a short answer. The auxiliary verbs “be”, “do”, “have” and modal verbs are key to forming “Yes/No” questions. The table shows the forms of auxiliary verbs and some modal verbs to form the question Yes/No for different tenses in English.

VerbPresentPastFuture
BeAm/Is/AreWas/WereWill be
DoDo/DoesDidWill do
HaveHave/HasHadWill have
CanCanCould
MayMayMight
ShouldShouldShould have
WouldWouldWould have

Examples of forming closed questions for different tenses

  1. Present:
    • Be: Are you studying for the exam?
    • Do: Do they like pizza?
    • Have: Have you finished your homework?
    • Can: Can she swim?
    • May: May I borrow your book?
    • Should: Should we go to the party?
    • Would: Would you like some coffee?
  2. Past:
    • Be: Were they at the concert?
    • Do: Did he enjoy the movie?
    • Have: Had you visited that place before?
    • Can: Could they solve the problem?
    • May: Might she have forgotten the appointment?
    • Should: Shouldn’t they have called earlier?
    • Would: Would you have joined us?
  3. Future:
    • Be: Will you be attending the conference?
    • Do: Will they do their assignments on time?
    • Have: Will you have completed the project by then?
    • Can: Can you help me tomorrow?
    • May: May he join us for lunch?
    • Should: Should we expect you at the meeting?
    • Would: Would you join us for dinner?

With this table, you can quickly see the correct Yes/No question forms for different verbs in different tenses. It helps in learning grammar and using the correct verbs in your speech.

Grammatical explanation of the formation of closed questions

Let’s consider the explanation of the basic rules for forming closed questions:

1. Auxiliary verb “To Be”:

  • To Be: Use ‘am,’ ‘is,’ or ‘are’ for the present; ‘was’ or ‘were’ for the past to start questions.

    Examples:

    • Am I right?
    • Is he sleeping?
    • Were they here?

2. Auxiliary verb  “Do”:

  • Use ‘do’ or ‘does’ for the present simple; ‘did’ for the past simple when the main verb is not ‘to be’.

    Examples:

    • Do you like ice cream?
    • Does she work here?
    • Did it rain yesterday?

3. Auxiliary verb “Have”:

  • Use ‘have’ or ‘has’ for present perfect; ‘had’ for past perfect when ‘have’ functions as an auxiliary verb.

    Examples:

    • Have you finished your project?
    • Has John left for the office yet?
    • Had they eaten before you arrived?

4. Modal verbs:

  • Modal verbs can precede the subject to form questions.

    Examples:

    • Can you swim?
    • Should we start now?
    • Would you like some coffee?

5. Forming Questions:

  • Reverse the order of the subject and the first auxiliary or modal verb.

    Examples:

    • Are you coming? (Instead of “You are coming.”)
    • Can she speak French? (Instead of “She can speak French.”)

6. Responses and Answers:

  • Responses either affirm (Yes, I do.) or negate (No, I don’t.), usually repeating the auxiliary or modal verb.

7. No Auxiliary Present Simple or Past Simple:

  • When the main verb is present simple or past simple and is not ‘to be’ or ‘have’, use ‘do’/’does’ or ‘did’.

    Examples:

    • Do they play football on Saturdays?
    • Does it work?
    • Did you see the movie?

8. Negative Questions:

  • Add ‘not’ to the auxiliary or modal verb. In spoken English, contractions with ‘n’t’ are common.

    Examples:

    • Isn’t it time to go?
    • Haven’t they arrived yet?
    • Shouldn’t we be quiet?

9. ‘Be’ without Auxiliary:

  • When ‘be’ is the main verb, it moves before the subject in questions.

    Examples:

    • Is the food good here?
    • Was she late?

10. ‘Have’ as a Main Verb:

  • In American English, form a question with ‘do’/’does’ or ‘did’. In British English, inversion might occur without ‘do’ support, sounding formal.

    Examples:

    • Do you have a pen? (Less formal, more common in spoken American English)
    • Have you a pen? (More formal, common in British English)

11. Short Answers:

  • It’s common to answer with short phrases, using only the subject and the auxiliary/modal verb.

    Examples:

    • Are you tired? Yes, I am.
    • Can you drive? No, I can’t.

12. Tag Questions:

  • A statement turned into a question by adding an auxiliary/modal verb at the end.

    Examples:

    • You’re a doctor, aren’t you?
    • She can swim, can’t she?

13. Statement Questions:

  • Sometimes statements are used with a question intonation to form informal closed questions.

    Examples:

    • You know where it is?
    • He’s here?

14. Intonation:

  • Rising intonation is typically used for yes/no questions to signal that a response is expected.

15. Emphasis:

  • When emphasizing the question, the auxiliary or modal verb is stressed.

    Examples:

    • Do you UNDERSTAND the problem?
    • Could you PLEASE tell me where it is?

To study closed questions, it is useful to conduct various exercises. Try role-playing games where you ask and answer questions. This will allow you to experience the practical aspect of using these questions in real situations. Don’t be afraid to use this type of question in conversation. By understanding the structure, use and practice of asking closed questions, students can improve their language skills, leading to improved interactions in both formal and informal settings.

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