Is it correct to say: "How did the problem started?" "How did the war started?" and so on?

I think the difference there is if you are using "the". Can someone enlighten me if the base form of the verb should still be used?

  • 3
    Excuse me, but it should be "start" instead of "started" in both examples! Dec 12, 2016 at 14:10
  • 1
    You are half right. It has nothing to do with the article "the", but the presence of the auxiliary verb "did" which requires a plain (infinitival) verb form as complement: How did the problem start?
    – BillJ
    Dec 12, 2016 at 17:07

1 Answer 1


As SovereignSun's comment, the verb should be the "base" present tense. The verb "to get" is often used with "how" to ask a question about a situation or condition. In your two examples you could say either:

How did the problem start?

How did the problem get started?

The general form is "How did the (noun)(do or be something)?"

How did the cat jump up on the roof?

How did the palm tree grow so tall?

How did the world get so complicated?

And so on. Remember the definite article "the" is used when talking about something either singular or already known to your listener. In my first sentence, for example, it is assumed that the listener knows which cat I mean.

Also, you do not use "the" before proper nouns (like names).

How did Donald Trump manage to be President?

You may use the indefinite article if you are talking about something in general or the listener doesn't already know which of that thing you mean:

How did a watermelon get in the bathtub?

How did an airplane land in our backyard?

How did a horse wander into the school?

Additionally, since you specify did and not does, this limits the scope of the question to things which happened at least partly in the past. You can use does to ask about present or ongoing things:

How does an airplane fly?

How does the elephant eat with its trunk?

How does Donald Trump keep his hair looking perfect?

  • "How did Donald Trump manage to be President?" makes me wonder. Does it mean he managed to be a president in the past? Shouldn't it instead be "become"? Dec 12, 2016 at 14:39
  • @SovereignSun Good question. "Become" is perfectly ok in this context, but I used "manage" to give the question the nuance, "I think it shouldn't have been possible, yet ..."
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:03
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    @SovereignSun Also it's meant to be a rhetorical question, meaning a question where I'm making a statement, and don't expect an answer.
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:08
  • Still "be" and "become" have very different meaning! Dec 12, 2016 at 15:10
  • @SovereignSun True he's not president yet, so technically he can't, at the moment, be President. But it's not unusual to project to an expected future condition when it's (more or less) certain.
    – Andrew
    Dec 12, 2016 at 16:47

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