Questions without Auxiliaries.

You have probably been taught that questions inthe present simple or past simple use the order:

Question

Auxiliary

Subject

Infinitive

for example:

Questionauxiliarysubjectinfinitive
Whatdo youwant?

or sometimes just

question word

Subject

Infinitive

Questionsubjectinfinitive
Do you livehere?

But this isn’t always true!

Let’s look at some examples:

“Who did Lee Harvey Oswald kill?”

Is a normal question with the QuASI form that you saw above.

Questionauxiliarysubjectinfinitive
WhodidLee Harvey Oswald kill?

But this does’t work for all questions, look at this example;

“Who killed John F Kennedy?”

In this sentence there is no auxiliary verb!

Why and when do we omit the auxilary verb?

We omit the auxiliary when the question word is the subject.

To identify the subject, look at who is “doing” the activity of the verb.

So in the example that we saw earlier,

“Who did Lee Harvey Oswald kill?”

we can see that the verb is kill. Who is doing the killing? Lee harvey Oswald.

Questionauxiliarysubjectinfinitive
WhodidLee Harvey Oswald kill?

But if we go back to the other example;

“Who killed John F Kennedy?”

And ask the same questions, which is the verb (kill) and who is doing the action of the verb, we can see that the subject is the question word “who”

When the question word is the subject we must omit the auxilary.