I wrote:

Iran is supporting Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians,… but what makes these countries terrorists?

Should it be:

Iran is supporting Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians,… but what does make these countries terrorists?


Iran is supporting Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians,… but what does it make these countries terrorists?

Sometimes I get confused when and with which "wh-words" to use auxiliary verbs to make questions. I thought if I don't use auxiliary verbs, it would be a regular sentence. For example in:

I don't know where he went.

The sentence after where is not in a question mode. So, in my examples above, I was afraid that the first sentence is not a question.

  • 1
    This is not complicated. These are two sentences joined by the conjunction "but". The second sentence starting with "what" is just a normal question, "What makes these countries terrorists?"
    – Andrew
    Jan 10, 2018 at 19:12
  • 2
    @Andrew the OP is probably wondering (although he doesn't say) why there isn't an auxiliary in the "what" question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 10, 2018 at 19:28
  • Is the ellipses [...] in your original text or did you choose to omit what followed for the sake of brevity, and clarity? The sentence could easily start with But what [...] these countries terroirists? Is this for an academic paper?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 10, 2018 at 19:36
  • 1
    I think that es after does in the second example is a typo, isn't it?
    – Cardinal
    Jan 10, 2018 at 20:47
  • @Mari I added the source of my confusion.
    – Ahmad
    Jan 11, 2018 at 5:26

1 Answer 1


Only the first sentence is correct English:

Iran is supporting the Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians... but what makes these countries terrorists?

The reason why only the first sentence is correct and the other two are wrong has to do with the fact that for makes to work (which is the third-person singular form of the verb to make) it needs a subject and what is fulfilling the role of that subject (a complete sentence requires a subject and a predicate). Actually, what in this case is a pronoun no different from any other English pronoun we've all come to love: he, she, it, you, we, they et cetera. The only difference is that it's a special kind of pronoun known as an interrogative pronoun (they're used for making questions while the regular ones are not). So, saying:

What keeps you up at night?

is grammatically the same thing as saying:

He keeps you up at night.

The only difference as noted above is that what turns the sentence it's in into a question.

But what about the following example you might ask:

What does this word mean?

Here, the situation is different because now what is no longer the subject of the sentence. this word has stolen the role of the subject and that entailed the necessary changes in grammar.

  • I think it depends on the context. In writing, I suppose it's wrong to do a do-support in an interrogative sense. For example, it's wrong to write "X is very salty, but what does make it so popular?" On the other hand, in the everyday speech I think it's not wrong to say so. Am I right?
    – Cardinal
    Jan 10, 2018 at 19:55
  • I think you're right. It's called the emphatic do. For example: What did happen?. You would say that to somebody who you thought was not telling you the full story behind a situation, probably negative, that took place in the past. Jan 10, 2018 at 20:09
  • Thank you. I described the problem more, however your answer was useful.
    – Ahmad
    Jan 11, 2018 at 5:28

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