Yes / No questions (closed questions)

In English, there are two basic types of questions: Yes / No questions and Wh- questions. Yes / No questions are also called closed questions because there are only two possible responses: Yes or No. When forming a Yes / No question, it must include one of these verbs: BE, DO, HAVE, or a modal verb. It is impossible to ask a Yes / No question without one of these verbs.

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correct   incorrect
Are elections next year? Elections next year?
Does he want to stay? He want to stay?
Have the boys eaten? The boys eaten?
Can the dog swim? The dog swim?

Use the verb BE to ask Yes / No questions about the identity or description of a person, place, or thing.

question   response
Am I your friend? Yes. / Yes, you are. / Yes, you are my friend.
Is this a good restaurant? No. / No, it is not. / No, it is not a good restaurant.
Are these islands Greek? Yes. / Yes, they are. / Yes, these islands are Greek.
Was his idea interesting? No. / No, it wasn’t. / No, his idea was not interesting.
Were they happy? Yes. / Yes, they were. / Yes, they were happy.

Note that the response can be short (Yes. / No.), or long: Yes or No followed by the subject and verb.

Use the verb BE with a preposition to ask Yes / No questions about a present or past location.

question   response
Am I at the correct location? No. / No, you aren’t.
Are the keys under the books? No. / No, they are not.
Was his house on an island? Yes. / Yes, it was.
Were the demonstrations in the center of town? No. / No, they weren’t.

Use the verb BE to ask a Yes / No question about a current activity or situation. This requires the present progressive: BE + (verb+ing).

question   response
Am I going with you and Tom? Yes. / Yes, you are.
Is she working today? No. / No, she isn’t.
Are we seeing a play tomorrow? Yes. / Yes, we are.

Use the verb BE to ask a Yes / No question about a past activity or situation. This requires the past progressive: WAS / WERE + (verb+ing).

question   response
Was it raining? Yes. / Yes, it was.
Were they playing? No. / No, they weren’t.

Use the verb BE to ask a Yes / No question with the passive voice.

question   response
Is gold mined in Canada? Yes. / Yes it is.
Are flowers grown here? No. / No, they are not.
Was the book read? Yes. / Yes, it was.

Use the verb HAVE to ask if somebody has done something or if some action has taken place. Note that these Yes / No questions use the present perfect (HAVE + past participle).

question   response
Has your brother left? No. / No, he hasn’t.
Have you driven before? Yes. / Yes, I have.
Has the party started? Yes. / Yes, it has.

Use the verb DO to ask Yes / No questions in order to obtain facts about people, places, or things.

question   response
Do they smoke? No. / No, they don’t.
Does it rain here? Yes. / Yes, it does.
Did the key work? No. / No, it didn’t.

Use modal verbs to ask Yes / No questions about possibilities or uncertainties.

question   response
Can we stay? Yes. / Yes, we can. / Yes, we can stay.
Could this be true? Yes. / Yes, it could (be true).
Should they stop? No. / No, they shouldn’t (stop).
May I help you? Yes. / Yes you may (help me).

Remember: When asking Yes / No questions with DO or a modal verb, the main verb remains in the base form (without to).

correct   incorrect
Do you drink coffee? Do you to drink coffee?
Does she work here? Does she to work here?
Can I go with you? Can I to go with you?
Should we email her? Should we to email her?

However, if there are two verbs that follow DO, the second verb remains in the infinitive (with to).

correct   incorrect
Do you want to drink coffee? Do you want drink coffee?
Does she like to work here? Does she like work here?
Did you need to go home? Did you need go home?

Note that there are several ways to answer Yes / No questions, especially when using contractions.

question response
Is he busy? No.
No, he isn’t.
No, he’s not.
No, he is not.
No, he isn’t busy.
No, he’s not busy.
No, he is not busy.
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