Friday, March 17, 2006

To do or not to do, that is the question

When teaching beginners, it is always a difficult task to persuade them that they need to use the auxiliary verb 'do' when asking questions or making negative statements. For my French-speaking students there isn't any logic in this, as there is no equivalent in French. I also explain that we NEVER use 'do' with the verb 'be'. A classic error: *"do you are hungry?" or even no verb at all, just the auxiliary: *"do you married?"
These are normal mistakes, and I'm not laughing at them - I know that asking questions is no easy thing when you are just beginning.

I'm going to make things even worse by telling you when you CAN use 'do' with 'be'.
In the imperative, especially negative: "Don't be stupid" "Don't be late" etc. We sometimes use it in positive sentences to add emphasis: "Do be quiet".

So in fact I'm not right to say never for do and be, but I don't want to confuse beginners any more than they already are. But if you have a good level, it's worth knowing.


MacGyver13 said...

Hi Jonathan

All that asking questions thing is a bit tricky for french people, because in french we do have interrogative rules, but they are not used anymore, it sounds so 'posh' :
Today, nobody would say 'où étais-tu hier soir ? ' but rather 't'étais où hier soir ?'
it's familiar for sure , but it's so usual , noboby's going to notice it.
That's why in english, when we start learning and are supposed to use 'do' when asking questions,
we can't help but compare to french interrogative rules and personnaly it took me time to understand that it was not schoolish , but just the everyday way of speaking for native speakers.
Anyway, i noticed lately when listening to american movies soundtracks a sort of lazy-evolution in english interrogative rules wanna drink ? ....
so 'do' just disappeared...

Take care

ps:about sad songs , do you know Storm by Lifehouse ??

Jonathan Lewis said...

Thanks for your comment, Marie-Christine - you're absolutely right as usual. Actually, when I first came to France some people seemed to be shocked when I would say "t'as faim?", as if this kind of language is reserved for native speakers, and it didn't seem right to hear a foreigner say it.

You may notice that "do you?" in English is often contracted to "dju" and attached to the following word: "djuwannadrink?"