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In a sentence like "What did John eat and Mary prepare?", the auxiliary verb "did" is "shared" between both conjuncts.

My question is whether it is grammatical to use an auxiliary verb in each conjunct, like: "What did John eat and did Mary prepare?". Is that possible? What would be its meaning?

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"What did John eat and did Mary prepare?" is possible, but the meaning is different.

I interpret it as meaning "What did John eat? (And) did Mary prepare?", where the second question is a yes/no question, not a wh-question.

I would prefer a comma before the "and" to make it clearer.

It is highly unlikely that the sentence would be understood as meaning the same thing as "What did John eat and Mary prepare?".

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  • would the lack of an object cause any structural problems in that case? I mean, since the meaning is different from the regular wh-question, and the second conjunct is interpreted as a yes/no question, is it still grammatical? Also, something like "What did john eat and did Mary come?" would be grammatical then? (despite its possible oddness).
    – lis_132135
    Mar 24 '21 at 16:52
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    "Prepare" is sometimes intransitive, with the object understood from context or from shared knowledge, so the lack of an object doesn't cause a problem; it is grammatical. "What did John eat and did Mary come?" is grammatical too. It might better be punctuated with a dash before "and" (or at least a comma, as before) to show that the two questions aren't connected..
    – rjpond
    Mar 24 '21 at 19:28
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    I think I got it now. As long as the verb in the second conjunct is (intended as) intransitive, we can have that kind of wh-question (taking in mind that the second question is actually a yes/no question). When the topics are not connected, using some punctuation in order to show that would be recommended. Many thanks!
    – lis_132135
    Mar 24 '21 at 20:25
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What did John eat and what did Mary prepare?

Complex sentence with and as conjunction.

OR

What did John and Mary prepare and eat? [one auxiliary, two main verbs, two subjects]

If you use two verbs and two subjects, you have to repeat the what did.

It is not grammatical to not repeat the question for two different actions for the two subjects.

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