Searching for the Subject in Questions
Does everyone love grammar? Don’t answer that! That sentence illustrates the subject’s favorite location in a question. Most questions in English are formed by adding a helping verb — do, does, will, can, should, and so forth — to a main verb. The subject is generally tucked between the helping verb and the main verb, but you don’t have to bother remembering that fascinating bit of trivia.
To locate the subject in a question, simply “pop the question” the same way you do for any other sentence. Here’s how to attack the first sentence of this paragraph:
- Pop the question: What’s happening? What is? Answer: does love.
- Pop the question: Who does love? Answer: everyone.
When you’re “popping the subject question” for a subject, the “popped question” may sound a little odd. Why? Because in a question, the subject usually isn’t located in front of the verb. But if you ignore the awkwardness of the phrasing and concentrate on meaning, you can easily — and correctly — identify the subject of a question.
Pop the questions and find the subject–verb pairs in these three questions.
A. Has George ever been elected president?
B. Could I possibly care less about George’s cherry tree?
C. Won’t George’s ax-sharpener charge extra?
Answers: In sentence A, has been elected is the verb and George is the subject. In sentence B, could care is the verb and the subject is I. Sentence C is a bit tricky. The word “won’t” is short for “will not.” So the verb in C is will charge, and the subject is George’s ax-sharpener. You may be wondering what happened to the not. Not is an adverb, not that you need to know that fact. It changes the meaning of the verb from positive to negative.