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A common nursery rhyme goes like this:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been down to London to visit the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse, under her chair.

My question is:

Was the formulation what did you there (as opposed to what did you do there) current in earlier English?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, of course. Early Modern English used to form questions like German or Spanish, by inverting the subject and the verb. In this case the verb is did, the subject is you.

Modern English, however, may only invert the subject with the first auxiliary verb, and if there are no auxiliary verbs, must use Do-Support to provide a dummy auxiliary do to carry the tense.

  • Gm: Wann gehst du?
  • Sp: ¿Cuándo vas (tú)?
  • EMEng: When goest thou?
  • MEng: When do you go?
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