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Statements and questions


A statement is a sentence which gives information. If you make a statement, you usually give the sentence a subject, and this must go in front of the verb.

  • The children are playing in the garden.

Negative statements 

Negative statements are made in two main ways:
1. If the statement contains an auxiliary verb, such as is or have, you usually add not or its contracted form n’t.

  • She is not leaving. OR She isn’t leaving.

*Am and may do not allow n’t. Will, shall, and can have special contracted forms: won’t, shan’t, can’t.

The same rules apply when you make a question negative.

  • Are they in the garden? Aren’t they in the garden?
  • Will he get the job? Won’t he get the job?

2. If the statement has no auxiliary verb, you need to make the negative using a form of do + not/n’t. Make sure that the main verb is in its basic form.

  • She likes swimming. She doesn’t like swimming. NOT She doesn’t likes swimming.
  • I saw a ship. I didn’t see a ship. NOT I didn’t saw a ship.


Questions are sentences which ask for information. They fall into three main types, depending on the kind of reply they expect.

‘Yes‑no questions’ expect a simple yes or no reply (or a word or phrase which can be used instead of yes or no). In these cases, you change the order of subject and verb.

  • Will Jane resign? (Possible answers: yes, no, don’t know; probably, maybe etc)
  • Are they ready?

‘Wh‑ questions’ begin with a question word, such as what, why, where, or how. This kind of question can have a wide range of different replies. The answer may be a full sentence, or one which leaves out the words that you can guess from knowing the question. Here too, you need to change the order of subject and verb.

  • Where are you going? (Possible answers: I’m going to work, downstairs, the library etc)

‘Alternative questions’ give the listener a choice of two possible replies, both of which are mentioned in the question. The two possibilities are connected by the word or. Once again, you must change the order of subject and verb.

  • Will you travel by train or by boat? (Possible answers: by train, by boat, don’t know etc)

Tag questions
You can change a statement into a question by adding a ‘tag question’ at the end of it. When you use a tag question, you are asking the listener to agree with the statement you have just made. If you make the statement positive, you expect the answer yes. If you make it negative, you expect the answer no.

A tag question is a type of ‘yes‑no question’, and shows the same change of word order. You use the same personal pronoun (she, they etc) and tense of the verb as in the statement to which the tag question is joined. In the most common kind of tag question, you change from positive to negative, or from negative to positive.

  • She’s outside, isn’t she? (Expected answer: yes)
  • They were ready, weren’t they? (Expected answer: yes)
  • You aren’t going, are you? (Expected answer: no)
  • It isn’t difficult, is it? (Expected answer: no)

Questions which are not questions

You can also use a sentence which looks like a question, but it is one where you are not actually expecting any reply. Because these sentences are halfway between a question and an exclamation, you will find them sometimes written with a question‑mark and sometimes with an exclamation mark.

In some cases, you already know the answer or you are asking your listener to agree with you. These sentences are called ‘exclamatory questions’.

  • Hasn’t she grown!
  • Wasn’t the book marvellous?

In other cases, no answer is possible. (Of course your listener may still give you an answer, whether you like it or not!) These sentences are used when you want to express a strong feeling about something. They are called ‘rhetorical questions’.

  • Doesn’t everyone know that the whole thing is impossible?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 5th Edition
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