In all three parts of the speaking test, the examiner will prompt you to speak by asking you a variety of questions, so it's a good idea to check you understand and can respond to the main question forms in English. These are summarised below.

1. Questions with "do / does (did)" as auxiliary

"Do/ does (did)" plus an infinitive is used:

  • In affirmative and negative questions in the present and past simple tense. The main verb is in the infinitive without "to". Many take a 'yes/no' answer.

For example:

  1. Q: Do you speak Cantonese? A: Yes, a little.
  2. Doesn't she live in Causeway bay? A: Yes she does.
  3. Did they all find jobs when they graduated? A: Most of them did.

"Do/ does (did)" is not used with the following:

  • With the verb "to be" as auxiliary or with modal auxiliary verbs (will, would, shall, should, can, must, may, ought etc).

For example:

  1. Are there any honest politicians?
  2. Was he at home all night?
  3. Will you come to the cinema with me?
  4. Can you tell me where to find the CILL?
  5. Wouldn't you like to see my paintings?


  • If the question word is the subject.

For example:

  1. Who loves you?
  2. What happened?
  3. Where have all the flowers gone?
  4. When did he?


  • With the perfect or past perfect tenses, as they take "have/ has (had)" as auxiliary.

For example:

  1. Have you heard the news about the Olympics?
  2. How many times had he spoken to her?
  3. Had he spent all the money when he was arrested?


  • With continuous tenses.

For example:

  1. Are you planning to go away this summer?
  2. Were they hoping to interview her?


  • With passives.

For example:

  1. Are postgraduate qualifications required for the post?
  2. Has the final decision been made?


  • With indirect questions. Other modal verbs are often used instead.

For example:

  1. Can you tell me the way to the Science Museum please?
  2. Would he consider working a 4 day week?

2. Yes / No questions

  • These require short "yes or no" type answers. The question form inverts the main and auxiliary verbs. If there is no auxiliary, use "do" in the appropriate form.

For example:

  1. Can they start tomorrow?
  2. Did their insurance cover the loss?
  3. Should we report it to the Dean?

3. Information ("wh") questions

  • These require a "wh" word (who, what, where, when, why, how) depending on the information sought. Like yes /no type questions, they invert the main and auxiliary verbs, and use "do /does (did)" if there is no other auxiliary. If the "wh" question word replaces the subject however, there is no auxiliary.

For example:

  1. What course is he studying?
  2. When can she get away?
  3. How did you hear about it?
  4. Who goes there?

4. Alternative ("either / or") questions

  • These are similar to "yes / no" questions but require a choice of answer. Main and auxiliary verbs are inverted, "do does (did)" is used if necessary and the question gives the alternatives. The answer states the correct or desired alternative.

For example:

  1. Should we stay or should we go now?
  2. Is it sunny outside or do I need an umbrella?
  3. Are you coming or not?

5. Statement questions

  • Sometimes a statement is used like a question, especially in informal spoken English. The intonation is usually like other questions however (i.e. rising at the end). Statement questions generally require a yes / no answer, with the information restated for extra clarity.

For example:

  1. He really believes that?
  2. You don't want anything to eat?
  3. The projects have to be finished by Thursday?

6. Tag questions

  • These consist of a statement (positive or negative) with a short question "tagged" onto the end. If the statement is affirmative, the tag is negative and vice versa. Tag questions can either be used to ask a genuine question (intonation rising at end) or to verify information you think you already know (intonation falling at end).They require yes / no type answers.

For example:

  1. Q: Dr Leung hasn't given us a deadline yet, has she? A: No she hasn't
  2. Q: Semester starts on 4th October, doesn't it? A: Yes it does.
  3. Q: You couldn't lend me $100, could you? A: Sorry mate!
  4. Q: Dogs like bones, don't they? A: They certainly do!
  5. Q: He's very good looking, isn't he? A: Do you really think so?
  6. Q: Water boils at 100°C, doesn't it? A: Yes it does.

7. Indirect (embedded questions)

  • In direct questions, the verb (usually the auxiliary) is either first or comes immediately after the question word. In indirect questions, there is a question phrase followed by "if" or "whether", then a statement type ending to the question.

For example:

Direct Question Indirect (embedded) Question
Is she at home? Do you know if she is at home?
Can you help me? Do you think you can help me?
Has she told them? Have you any idea if she has told them?
What did she say? Do you know what she said?
  • Indirect questions also include questions in reported speech.

For example:

  1. They wanted to know if I was English.
  2. She asked me what I did in my free time.
  3. They asked him if he was hungry!