I am teaching simple present tense to my intermediate ESL students and was stumped by this question: Why don't we use do/does in a question such as "What satisfies you?" According to the rule, we should use do/does in questions with the verb base, as in: "What does satisfy you?" Why does this seem to be an exception? Thanks for your ideas! Amy
There are several conditions on the use of Do-Support in a clause:
- Some operation must require an auxiliary verb
(e.g, contraction of an auxiliary, or subject-auxiliary inversion).
- There must be no auxiliary verb in the clause already.
Not, for instance, has to go after the first auxiliary verb, and invokes Do-Support with no auxiliary:
- I like him, but she doesn't like him.
Question formation (both Y/N and Wh-) uses subject-auxiliary inversion:
- Does she like him? Yes, she likes him.
- Who does she like? She likes him.
except in Wh- questions where the Wh-word is the subject:
- Who likes him? She likes him.
In the example you give,
- What satisfies you?
What is the subject. Since it's already at the beginning of the clause, no further
movement is required to signal a question, so no subject-auxiliary inversion.
Therefore no Do-Support, either.