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USE OF HELPING VERBS/MODAL VERBS WITH QUESTION WORDS ‘WHO, WHAT, WHICH, WHOSE’

When WHO, WHAT, WHICH or WHOSE is the subject or part of the subject we do not use DO/DID as helping verb with it; e.g.

INCORRECT: Who does wash the dishes?
CORRECT: Who washes the dishes?
(WHO is the subject; THE DISHES is the object.)

INCORRECT: Who does own this bag?
CORRECT: Who owns this bag?

INCORRECT: Who did speak to you?
CORRECT: Who spoke to you?

INCORRECT: Who did tell you I’d lend you the money?
CORRECT: Who told you I’d lend you the money?

INCORRECT: What trail does lead down the mountain?
CORRECT: What trail leads down the mountain?

INCORRECT: What did happen to your car?
CORRECT: What happened to your car?

INCORRECT: What did fall off the wall?
CORRECT: What fell off the wall?

INCORRECT: Which horse did win?
CORRECT: Which horse won?

INCORRECT: Whose team did finally win?
CORRECT: Whose team finally won?

INCORRECT: Whose phone did ring?
CORRECT: Whose phone rang?

COMPARE:

1. Which pigeon arrived first?

2. Which hand do you use?

(In the first sentence WHICH is the subject, so no helping verb. In the second sentence WHICH is neither subject nor part of the subject, rather the subject is YOU, so the helping verb DO.)

NOTE-I: However, when we ask negative questions with these words as subjects, we use the helping verb DO/DID if no other helping verb/modal verb is required; e.g.

AFFIRMATIVE VERB: Who wants an apple?
NEGATIVE VERB: Who doesn’t want an apple?

AFFIRMATIVE VERB: Which door opened?
NEGATIVE VERB: Which door didn’t open?

NOTE-II: Notice that we can sometimes use DO/DID when WHO, WHAT, WHICH or WHOSE is subject if we want to encourage the speaker to give an answer; e.g.

Come on, be honest – who did tell you?

NOTE-III: When any of these words is not the subject we must use the helping verb/modal verb according to the requirement; e.g.

What has she done now? (SHE is the subject here.)

NOTE-IV: When we use WHO or WHAT as a subject, the verb is always singular; e.g.

INCORRECT: Who want a cup of coffee?
CORRECT: Who wants a cup of coffee?

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

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