Grammar Toolbox: Do-support / Did-support


Do you know how to ask questions in English? Compare:

  • Liker du å synge? - Do you like to sing?
  • Spiller han tennis? - Does he play tennis?
  • Bor de sammen? - Do they live together?

With main verbs like these (there are hundreds of them), English needs do-support. Note that the main verbs do not change: You cannot say *Does he plays tennis?



Much the same thing happens in negations (not-sentences):

  • Jeg liker ikke å synge. - I do not like singing.
  • Han spiller ikke tennis. - He does not play tennis.
  • De bor ikke sammen. - They do not live together.



Questions and negations about the past have did-support:

  • Did he run yesterday?
  • I did not ask.

This is almost the same as with do-support. In fact it is easier, because we use did only. But remember, the main verb must be in the infinitive. You cannot say *Did he ran or *I did not asked.


Auxiliary verbs

So far we have dealt with main verbs, which need do-support. If the sentence already has an auxiliary verb (hjelpeverb), there is no need for do­­-support:

  • Have you heard the news? I have not heard the news.
  • Is he doing his homework now? He is not doing his homework now.
  • Can you tell the difference? I cannot tell the difference.



What, who, which and whose can function as subject (doer of the verb). Then we cannot use do-support:

  • Who killed the bird?
  • What happened next?
  • Which team won the cup?
  • Whose parents complained the most?


But when they are not the subject, we must use do/did:

  • What did you tell her?