The Grammar Book - Third Edition - 6

to questions. Replying is not as straightforward as it may seem. This is a problem, given
that it is well known that early interactions between learners and speakers of English are
replete with questions directed to the learners for the purpose of comprehension checks and
clarification requests, and these questions are adjusted to enhance learners' comprehension,
which sometimes results in ungrammatical input (Long, 1981).
In this chapter, we begin by examining the inversion rule in English under the heading
of form. Other comments about form are directed to the intonation pattern of yes/no questions
and to the structure of short answers. In order to help teachers guide students on how to
respond to questions, we also comment on the meaning of yes/no questions and their variations.
In the section on use, we make some observations about short answers to yes/no questions. We
also discuss contraction in negative questions and the use of elliptical questions, questions
that take less than full form. We conclude this chapter by pointing out other functions that
yes/no questions can fulfill, not only in informal language use, but also in academic language.

The Form of Yes/No Questions
Yes/no questions are often defined as questions for which either "Yes" or "No" is the expected
answer:1
Are you going to the party?

Yes (I am).
No (I'm not).

Inverting the subject and operator gives rise to the characteristic syntactic form of
yes/no questions in English

SUBJECT-OPERATOR INVERSION
With an Auxiliary Verb
Consider the following questions:
1. Will they be in Reno on Friday?
2. Was she able to finish in time?
3. Has Maricor gone home?
4. Are you doing anything tomorrow?

Tree diagrams illustrate
the underlying structures
of sentences.

Here is the tree for the first sentence:
S
sm
Q

S
SUBJ

PRED

NP

AUX

VP

pro

M

they

will be

cop

ADVL
PrepP

PrepP

prep

NP

prep

NP

in

N

on

N

Reno

Chapter 11: Yes/No Questions
6

Friday

211



The Grammar Book - Third Edition

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