What happened/ what did happen ... ['did' in questions]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mahau, Jul 17, 2010.

  1. mahau Senior Member

    Lithuanian
    Hello,

    Where is difference between:
    1) What happened to you?
    2) What did happen to you?
    Which sentence is true? For me first sounds better, but the second looks grammatically correct?
    Can someone help me?
     
  2. soccergal Senior Member

    English - US
    Both are grammatically correct, but the first one is the one you would most likely need.
    The only time I would use the second form is if I knew that something had happened, but wanted more detail: By the way, what did happen to you? (with stress on the word did)
     
  3. mahau Senior Member

    Lithuanian
    OK, I understand now. Thank you. But if I say: "What had you for breakfast today" is grammatically incorrect, or?
     
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    You actually need What did you have for breakfast?:)

    In your example with "happened", what is the subject of the verb; in the "breakfast" example you is the subject of the verb:
    What happened to you?
    What did you have for breakfast?
     
  5. mahau Senior Member

    Lithuanian
    Thanks a lot. Now I understand!
     
  6. mahau Senior Member

    Lithuanian
    OK, I just found new expressions:

    How long was he President?
    and
    What was his father's job?

    It is very bad when I write with "did"?
    How it changes the meaning of these sentences?
     
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes, it would be wrong to write these with "did".

    The question form of "he was" is :tick:"was he?" not :cross:"did he be".

    The question form of "his father's job was" is :tick:"was his father's job?" not :cross:"did his father's job be?".

    We don't use the auxiliary "do" to form interrogatives/negatives with the verb to be.
     
  8. mahau Senior Member

    Lithuanian

    Thank you Loob!
     
  9. Shauli New Member

    French
    Hi,

    A friend of mine have asked me about the use of happenedor did happen.
    Talking with him, he told me he had been taught to use an "auxiliary" when asking questions in English. Thus, saying "Who ate him ?" or "What happened to him ?" seems uncorrect to him, he thinks only "Who did eat him ?" or "What did happen to him ?" are correct, while I believe both are correct.
    What I think I've understood so far is that using did is a way of putting an emphasis on the event, while using only the preterit is a more general way of asking a question.
    So, which of us is right :)rolleyes:) and how could you explain the difference between those two turns of phrases ?

    Thanks for your help.

    << Merged with an earlier thread. Please read from the top. >>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2011
  10. Ayudame333 New Member

    Los estados unidos
    English-USA
    I will try My best to make this make sense but "what happened to him?" Is correct. I also dont know what you mean by " who ate him " but that is the correct phrase. Any other questions just ask and ill be happy to try My best.

    Good luck!
     
  11. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    Hello, Shauli. "Who" and "what" are interrogative pronouns. Although your friend is right that we often use "did" in forming questions, you certainly don't have to use them.

    Who ate him? This is fine.
    Did the giant eat him? This is also fine.

    I call the use of "did" in "Who did eat him?" the past emphatic although some of our members don't seem to recognize the term. Terminology changes over time, so it's hard to come up with any one term that everybody accepts.

    As you can tell from the term "past emphatic", I agree that this form of asking a question is used to emphasize some action in the past.

    You can tell your friend that using "did" is optional when you are using interrogative pronouns.
     
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The did would come in when the subject has to come after the tense. When who or what is itself the subject, no did is needed. The did could be included to indicate a contrast:

    I doubt he was hurt by the ladder.
    What did happen to him then?

    (In this context, we know something happened to him, and we know one thing that did not.)
     
  13. Shauli New Member

    French
    Thanks for your answers,

    So when you use an interrogative pronoun, you don't need to use "did", but both ways make sense, that's it ?
    I'll try to sort this out with my friend...

    owlman5, when you say "I agree that this form of asking a question is used to emphasize some action in the past." is it only your feeling, or is it a "rule" ?

    EDIT :
    "The did would come in when the subject has to come after the tense. When who or what is itself the subject, no did is needed."
    Now, that's a rule that explains everything, thanks for writing it down ^^.

    I wouldn't have thought about using "did" to indicate a contrast, that could be useful...
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2011
  14. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    It's not just a "feeling", Shauli. When you ask a question such as "Who did go to the store?", you are using "did" to emphasize and distinguish the verb "go". It's another way of saying "Well, Mr. X didn't go to the store, so who did?"

    Giving advice based on vague "feelings" would be a very bad idea. Speakers must share a common vocabulary and grammar in order to communicate. This background owes much more to reason than it does to emotion, in my opinion.

    Speaking of "rules" in language is always problematic. I'd say that "customs" or "traditions" determine our choices rather than iron-clad "rules".
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2011
  15. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    To my great surprise I did find something that confirms Forero's explanation. In Swan's PRACTICAL ENGLISH USAGE, Third Edition, page 466, chapter 480.5 QUESTIONS (1): basic rules, we read: "But do can be used after a subject question for emphasis, to insist on an answer.
    Well, tell us - what did happen when your father found you?
    So who did marry the Princess in the end?"
    :)
     
  16. Shauli New Member

    French
    @owlman5

    I agree with you about the bad idea of using "feelings" to give advices, but that's the problem when you're speaking with a non-native speaker of the language...

    You see, when you used "I agree that..." after writing "some of our members don't seem to recognize the term" I wasn't sure of the meaning of "agree" here, and felt I needed a confirmation. That's the same for "feeling" and "rules", sometimes it's hard to find the best word when you're not a native-speaker that's why I use quote marks at some points.

    About iron-clad "rules" in languages, you're also right, but I believe that sometimes when you learn a language you need to be given some, even if they are followed by "exceptions", so it would be easier to acquire automatisms ; that's why I was looking for a "rule" to get a clear answer.

    Anyway, thanks for the help
     
  17. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    You write well, Shauli. I'll venture to offer you a "rule" here: When you use "do" or "did" after an interrogative pronoun, your listener will understand it to be an emphatic use, as I mentioned earlier. When you intend no such emphasis, there's no need to use "do" in a question beginning with an interrogative pronoun:

    Who went to the store? This is an ordinary question.

    Who did go to the store? This is an emphatic question. You should stress the "did" with your voice.
     
  18. Shauli New Member

    French
    So it's indeed a kind of "rule".

    One more subtelty I would not have thought about if someone hadn't told me, thanks for the advice.
     
  19. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Here is an example in which did is not emphatic:

    What did he see?

    We would not say "What he saw?". But we might, under some circumstances ask "He saw what?", or "What is it he saw?". "What is it he did see?" would again be using the did for contrast/emphasis.
     
  20. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    Forero's fine response affirms my hesitation about offering "rules". Every time I come up with one, a competent speaker can find an exception. I'd take a good, hard look at Forero's reply if I were you, Shauli. :)
     
  21. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    To avoid this confusion with did we could use an emphatic word like really or actually.

    "Who actually ate him ?" or "What really happened to him ?"
     
  22. Shauli New Member

    French
    ...

    I can "sense" that "What he saw?" isn't correct, but I'm having a hard time trying to define a "rule" about this... I'm pretty sure it's possible to find something with subjects/complements before/after the verb, but I just can't find it right now. I guess I'll just go to sleep for the moment and get back to it in tomorrow morning.

    Thanks for the help, and if you manage to define a rule about this don't hesitate, I'll take it

    PS :
    Sorry, I guess I'm getting irritating with all those "rule" written in this page (I believe i just reached a new personnal record ^^ )
     
  23. selmake Senior Member

    ENGLISH (UK)/SPANISH (SPAIN)- bilingual
    I was wondering if there is a rule behind questions such as:
    what happened to you?
    What entered your mind when you saw the photo?
    I know that what is the subject of these sentences but how do you explain the fact that these questions do not need did...Thankyou

    << Merged with an earlier thread. Please read from the top. >>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2011
  24. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    You've actually given the answer yourself, selmake:).

    When the WH-word is the subject of the verb in the question, we don't use the auxiliary "do":
    Who came late?
    What caused the problem?
    Which costs more than all the others?
     
  25. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    But you would say 'which did you take' or 'what did you do'. What is the subject in those sentences if not which/what? (partly to clarify for the OP and also because I don't know myself :p)
     
  26. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    You is the subject of each of these questions. 'You' did the action. What and which are the recipients of the action, the objects.
    Which did you take? as a positive assertion = You [did] take which.
    What did you do? = You [did] do what.
    The use of did is consistent with Loob's explanation in post #4.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2011
  27. selmake Senior Member

    ENGLISH (UK)/SPANISH (SPAIN)- bilingual
    Ok thankyou very much I thought that maybe it had something to do with the verb happen and enter because I could not think of any other examples, but of course that does not make sense!
     
  28. srush33 New Member

    Kurdish
    Well done dear
    Accidentally, I came across with your explanation about 'did' in question.
    This question does not accept any other explanations except the one you have commented.

    I just want to add something. There is ONLY one situation in which we do not use auxiliary verb in question, 'when we ask about the subject', apart from this case, we always change the sentence to interrogative then we have to add the question word.

    for example, The child broke the vase. First, change it into interrogative Did the child break the vase?
    now you can add a wh- word, when, where, how, what , except (who) and (what) when is for subject

    What did the child break?
    but for who ::tick: who broke the vase? Not :who did break the vase?:cross:
     

Share This Page