What you look like.
What do you look like?

When forming the wh question, do I need to use a verb or auxiliary verb in between wh and subject?

What · he said · turned out to be true?
What · did he say · turned out to be true?

What · you opened it · with?
What · did you open it · with?

What do the above sentences mean?

1 Answer 1


All full questions* require a finite auxiliary verb (that is, an auxiliary verb tensed for either past or present) before the subject. When the verb in the sentence is a construction with an auxiliary, this is accomplished by switching the subject and the auxiliary. When the verb is a lexical verb with no auxiliary, it is accomplished with DO-support: the tense is removed from the verb and put on a form of DO before the subject:

He is John Smith. → Is he John Smith?
He is [who]. → Who is he?

He has gone to town. → Has he gone to town?
He has gone [where]. → Where has he gone?

You look like an executive. → Do you look like an executive?
You look like [what]. → What do you look like?

Your second sentence, however, confuses two different constructions. There What is not an interrogative, a question word, but a relative pronoun heading a clause which acts as a noun phrase. The statement form would be:

[Subject What you said] [Verb turned out] [Complement to be true].

Consequently, the question form would be:

Did what you said turn out to be true?

* As Peter Flom points out, questions may be truncated very substantially in discourse context.
BE is always considered an auxiliary, even when it is the only verb.

  • As usual, an excellent answer. But what about this construction: "Who? Him?" as in, e.g. if someone says "I think Millard Fillmore is the greatest president of all time!" another person might respond "Who? Him?"
    – Peter Flom
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 12:20
  • 1
    @PeterFlom Well, there's considerable ellipsis there! 1) Who do you think is the greatest president? Do you really think him the greatest president? (Admittedly, I cheat a little on the case of HE; he*→*him is really a post-cyclic transform.) I've edited my first sentence. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 12:43
  • @PeterFlom & Stoney: What's wrong with Fillmore? Hm? ;^)
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 0:36
  • @J.R. Millard Fillmore's last words were "The nourishment is palatable." Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 0:53
  • Why would that disqualify him from greatness? (Sorry, but I can't seem to restrain myself from responding with wh questions – please don't feel the need to answer them.) :^)
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 0:56

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