16
    • What did you say?

    • What you said?

    • What did you wear?

    • What you wore?

    • Where did you go?

    • Where you go?

I know that sometimes in English, people do not use “do” in “wh-” questions. I have heard somewhere that people do not use “do” when the answer is a proper noun or a unique thing. Am I right?

  • What you said./Where you go/etc.. are Wh-clauses. Not Wh- questions – Dinusha Oct 28 '14 at 14:36
  • What about in other wh questions? You know I thought my question might become misleading. Yes they are like clauses. But I mean sonething else. There are sometimes I cannot remember that depending on answer, they do not use "do" or "does" in some wh questins. – user5036 Oct 28 '14 at 14:43
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    @user5036 Aha, now I understand the kind of question you mean! I'll post a new answer. – apsillers Oct 28 '14 at 14:58
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    In early modern English, there were other proper forms: What said you, What wore you?, Where go you? Shakespeare wrote: Where goes Cesario? (The forms we use today, like Where does Cesario go? would also have been grammatical then, but a brief search of Shakespeare suggests that with where, they were somewhat less common.) – Peter Shor Oct 28 '14 at 18:14
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    @PeterShor and the key pattern to notice there is that the first verb still must come before the subject. – Dan Getz Oct 29 '14 at 10:23
20

The rule is that Do support is called into play after a Wh-interrogative when subject/auxiliary inversion is called for and the verb is not headed by BE or an auxiliary. Consequently:

You do not use do after a Wh-

  • a) when the Wh- word is the Subject of the verb, or is a 'determiner' on the subject—subject/auxiliary inversion does not occur when this is the case.

    Who told you that?
    Which bus goes downtown?

  • b) when the tensed verb is a form of BE—subject/auxiliary inversion is required, but BE is always treated as an auxiliary, even when the copular or behavioral sense is intended, so do support is not needed.

    Who are you?
    How old are you?
    Where were you yesterday?

  • c) when the tensed verb is an auxiliary: BE, HAVE, or a modal—this auxiliary inverts with the subject and do support is not needed:

    Why have you come here?
    What is being done to you?
    What can you do?

In the following questions the tensed verb is not BE or an auxiliary, and the Wh- word is not the subject of the verb, so subject/auxiliary inversion is required and do support is needed to supply the auxiliary:

Q: What did you say? → A: I said X.
Q: Which shirt did you wear? → A: I wore X.
What you are asking about is the Direct Object of the verbs, so the questions need do support.

Q: Who did you give it to? → A: I gave it to X.
Who you are asking about is the Indirect Object of give, so the question needs do support.

Q: Where did you go? → A: I went to X.
Where represents your destination, a complement to the verb go.

Q: Why did you go? → A: I went because X.
Why represents your reason, a modifier to the clause headed by go.

  • I think "Who did you give it to" should be "Whom did you give it to", since, as you point out, it is the object. – GentlePurpleRain Oct 28 '14 at 18:46
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    If you wanted to be really fussy, @GentlePurpleRain, it would be To whom did you give it?, but not many people actually talk like that. – TRiG Oct 28 '14 at 18:51
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    @TRiG Agreed: that's the kind of nonsense up with which most people will not put. – David Richerby Oct 28 '14 at 19:26
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    @TRiG I was always taught that the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition is really just a completely made up myth, and that such a rule has never actually been followed. – Daniel Oct 29 '14 at 0:42
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    @Daniel It has never been followed much in speech, except by the very highly educated. It was first advanced by Dryden in the late 17th century, but in a context where it is clear that what he had in mind was ending a line of verse on an infelicitously stressed preposition. In the 18th century several grammarians recommended avoiding the stranded preposition in certain registers, especially oratory, on prosodic grounds. It only hardened into a rule in the early 19th century; but it was pretty strictly observed in formal and academic prose for more than 150 years. ... – StoneyB Oct 29 '14 at 1:02
6

Your questions without an auxiliary do are not correct:

What did you say? (correct)

What you said? (not correct)

The second form is never correct. Note that it is correct as a relative clause:

I heard what you said.

As a stand-alone sentence, however, "What you said?" is never grammatical.


Note that questions with verbs of being do not need an auxiliary like do:

Where are my shoes? (correct)

What is your name? (correct)

When was my brother here? (correct)


In all my examples above, the "wh-" question words act as nouns or adverbs:

What did you wear? I wore my red dress.

When was my brother here? He was here during the last thunderstorm.

However, some question words act as adjectives to modify nouns. In that case, you do not need a form of do:

Which bus goes to New York? (correct)

This bus goes to New York.

Whose dog wants to play?

My dog wants to play.

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    It's grammatical as an echo question. "I'm asking what I said." "What you said? Why are you asking that?" "I told you, I have amnesia!" – snailboat Oct 28 '14 at 17:12
-4

These are all idiomatic:

What kind of clothes does she like to wear?
What kind of clothes did she wear when she was in college?
What kind of clothes was she wearing when she went to the dance?
What is she wearing to the dance?
What have I got in my pocket?
What do I have in my pocket?
What is in my pocket?
What was in my pocket?
Now, what was I going to say?
What do you have to say about that?!

Where do you put the coin in this vending machine?

Who do you have for calculus next semester?

When is the train coming?
When does this train arrive in Berlin?

Why do you ask?
Why even ask her?  She won't give you a definite answer.

What to wear?

When to go?

Hmmm, who to be for Hallowe'en?

Why take risks when you could play it safe?
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    this isn't an answer in any way – ell Oct 28 '14 at 16:50

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