Using ‘Do’ / ‘Does’ / ‘Am’ / ‘Is’ / ‘Are’ in a question

Lectura Niveles A2-B1 (5 min)

For a non-native English speaker, there can be a lot of confusion on when to use the words ‘do / does / am / is / are?’

To begin with, it is important to note that ‘do’ and ‘does’ and ‘are’, ‘am’ and ‘is’ mean the same but you use a different one depending on the context of the sentence.

I → do

You → do

He/She/It → Does

We → do

You (plural) → do

They → do

I → am

You → are

He/She/It → is

We → are

You (plural) → are

They → are

Now…when do we use them?

When we ask questions in the present simple tense, we use ‘do / does’ for every regular verb. For example:

  • Do you like pizza? (To like)
  • Does she live in London? (To live)
  • Do you want to come to my house? (To want)
  • Do we need to sleep? (To need to)
  • Does he have a pen? (To have)
  • Does it rain often? (To rain)
  • Do they enjoy painting? (To enjoy)
  • Do I have to come? (To have to)

It’s the same for a question that begins with a ‘wh-’ e.g. ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘how’.

  • Why do you like chocolate?
  • Where does she live in Madrid?
  • How do you know that?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Who doesn’t understand?
  • When do you think I should leave?

However, the verb ‘to be’ is different. We don´t use ‘do’ and ‘does’, we use ‘am’, ‘are’ and ’is’. Firstly, let’s quickly look at the conjugation for the verb ‘to be’:

Subject pronoun Present tense conjugation
I Am
You Are
He/She/It Is
We Are
You (plural) Are
They Are

Notice how the conjugation of the verb ‘to be’ helps you form the question… you just have to put the present tense conjugation in front of the subject pronoun.

For example:

  • Are you tired? (To be tired)
  • Is she at work? (To be at work)
  • Are they here? (To be here)
  • Am I allowed to come in? (To be allowed to)
  • Are they angry? (To be angry)
  • Are you (plural) interested in dinosaurs? (To be interested in)
  • Is he thirsty? (To be thirsty)
  • Are we late? (To be late)

Again, it’s the same for a question that begins with a ‘wh-’ e.g. ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘how’:

  • Why are you tired?
  • How am I supposed to know?
  • What is for dessert?
  • When are they coming?
  • Where is he going?
  • Who is going to clean the kitchen?

Note: It is important to remember that ‘is’ is used singularly and ‘are’ is used in plural. For example, ‘where are the things?’ vs. ‘where is the thing?’

Bibi Hughes, Studio 3 intern from the UK