5

Which is correct?

Was the cheese taste delicious?

or

Did the cheese taste delicious?

I know that we should use 'did' when we want to ask some question in the past simple form, but I'm not sure about this case. When we use "did" in this sentence, it sounds like supposition about cheese taste, but I need to ask straightly.

How to say it correctly?

  • 2
    Here's a simple rule: we use to be (is, was, were, etc.) in the question when the original statement used to be. We use to do (do, does, did, etc.) when the original statement used any other verb. So for example: She is tall. / Is she tall? The fire burned. / Did the fire burn? In your case, the verb is taste, so we have to use to do in the question. – stangdon Feb 21 '17 at 18:22
  • @stangdon Well, we do not always use to do in the absence of to be. Have you never heard that? Must I give examples? – Hagen von Eitzen Feb 21 '17 at 21:54
  • 2
    @HagenvonEitzen - I said it was a simple rule, not an all-comprehensive rule covering every single situation. Feel free to give examples. – stangdon Feb 21 '17 at 21:59
7

TL;DR; You should use "did", because your main verb is preceded by no auxiliaries.

There's a phenomenon in questions called 'subject–auxiliary inversion'.

You already probably know what a subject is; it's "Max" in "Max had lunch in a restaurant." 'auxiliary' is a type of verb, but not the normal type. You're familiar with auxiliaries as well; one such example is "was" in "It was raining very heavily yesterday." Auxiliary verbs are verbs, but they somehow assist the other verbs in the sentence they appear.

So, what does 'subject–auxiliary inversion' mean? It means that, to form a question, you simply need to swap the places of the subject and the auxiliary:

It was raining very heavily yesterday.

becomes

Was it raining very heavily yesterday?

So the question becomes "which auxiliary should I use?" To answer, you need to remind yourself of what the verb phrase in the declarative sentence is. If there's a "be" verb in the initial sentence, you simply swap the place of subject and the auxiliary, and add a question mark, to create an interrogative sentence.

Kim was creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all the strangers.

becomes

Was Kim creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all the strangers?

In cases where "be" is a main verb, you can apply the same process.

Kim was happy.

becomes

Was Kim happy?

If, however, there are no auxiliary or main "be"s present, you create an interrogative sentence (question) by using "did" as auxiliary.

I tried to fly with metal wings.

becomes

Did I try to fly with metal wings?

Notice how "try" is in the plain form, without any suffix or prefixes. Any changes are done to the auxiliary "did".

In your sentence, you need to examine what the initial sentence was. Was it

*It was taste delicious.

or

It tasted delicious.

? You already know that if you use an auxiliary "was" before a main verb in a sentence, you need to use the main verb in the gerund form. "I was try" is ungrammatical while "I was trying" is grammatical, albeit incomplete.


As the comment by Ilmari points out below, you may also encounter constructions such as these:

I did convince him to buy us a new laptop.
He does seem inclined to eat junk food.

So, what's the deal with these? They have an auxiliary, but it's not one of "be"'s forms. It's called an emphatic 'do'. As you may have guessed, just like the case of "was", you can simply swap (or inverse) the auxiliary and the subject to create an interrogative.

Did I convince him to buy us a new laptop?
Does he seem inclined to eat junk food?

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    It might be useful to note that "I did try to fly" is also grammatical, and basically a more emphatic (but otherwise equivalent) way of saying "I tried to fly". – Ilmari Karonen Feb 21 '17 at 19:07
  • I kept thinking something was missing. :) – M.A.R. Feb 21 '17 at 19:25
10

Because you're using "taste", you need to use "did".

Did the cheese taste delicious?

However, if you omit "taste", you would use "was". I would argue that this form is much more common because, in general, "taste" is implied with "delicious".

Was the cheese delicious?

The former would be more (or at least equally) common if you used just about any word other than "delicious":

Did the cheese taste [salty/sweet/sour/good...]?

versus

Was the cheese [salty/sweet/sour/good]?

Both of these are pretty equal in my mind, though the version with "taste" is a bit more specific.

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  • I mean, can't we make the compound word "cheese taste" like 'the car door', 'the kitchen window', etc.? With 'taste' meaning " the sweet, sour, bitter, or salty quality of a thing that you can sense when it is in your mouth" – Ting Choe Feb 21 '17 at 18:26
  • @Lambie We would normally say "The cheese tasted awful". – BillJ Feb 21 '17 at 18:26
  • This is not a compound word I recommend you use... You should be extremely cautious making compound words because most of them won't work. We tend to only use them in specific situations and this isn't one of them. – Catija Feb 21 '17 at 18:32
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – snailplane Feb 21 '17 at 20:01

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