Native speakers often tend to simplify their language, for example they shorten phrases ("I would like to" becomes "I'd like to", etc.).

Taking this into account, do native English speakers ever omit auxiliary verbs (do, does) in questions? For example, would you ever say something like

You like this book?

instead of

Do you like this book?

It seems that auxiliary verbs in questions do not carry necessarily any information required to precisely convey meaning, and therefore are good candidates for being omitted in questions.

Some questions do not even imply usage of auxiliary verbs:

Who likes this book?

  • 2
    I wouldn't think of it as omitting the auxiliary verb; I would think of it as turning a statement into a question by using intonation. Consider what happens with the third person: Does John like this book? We don't say John like this book? but John likes this book? Commented May 15, 2022 at 15:12
  • Compare another 'declarative question', "He's/John's here already?" Commented May 15, 2022 at 15:22
  • @PeterShor Yes, ok - not omitting, but making questions without auxiliary verbs. Is it common? In what situations would you ask "John likes this book?" or "John liked this book?" (instead of "Does John like this book?" or "Did John like this book?")?
    – Daniel
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 15:23
  • 1
    English speakers can and often do omit predictable items like auxiliary verbs, pronoun subjects, and dummy pronouns, for instance, at the beginning of sentences. There are other rules that deal with the ends, but beginnings in English are often jammed with words that have no meaning or use but are required by grammar. If they can be predicted by the listener -- or the speaker thinks so -- they often get zapped. The technical term is Conversational Deletion. Commented May 15, 2022 at 15:54
  • 1
    For spoken English, look into stress time vs. syllable time. The auxiliary is expendable. Commented May 16, 2022 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


The name of the game here is intonation and stress. (aka suprasegmental features of a language)

For example: You like this book. [statement]

You like this book? [as opposed to hating it, for example]

You like this book? [as opposed to some other book]

You like this book? [as opposed to someone else]

You like this book? [as opposed to some other media/ium]

  • You like this book? [said with an overall sarcastic or sneering tone or other tone or as a question], which unfortunately I cannot represent in writing but must name.

"You like this book?", he sneered. "You like this book?", he said disarmingly.

The stress on a particular word changes the meaning of the utterance by the speaker and the overall intonation can do so also. In writing, the word stress can be indicated by italics, but the overall intonation cannot. It requires some kind of adverbial boost.

  • Please note: A question without an auxiliary is common in English. However, these questions without auxiliaries occur in a co-text or context. They don't usually appear out of the blue. Here the context is provided by "this book", a deictic marker where the speaker is pointing at the book or referring to some book that is already obvious or known to the speakers. "that book" also can be pointing (literally) but can also be a discourse marker referring back to a book that the speakers have been discussing.

[Also, see John Lawler's conversational deletion which is the technical linguistic term for this kind of form.]

Here is an amusing story re the verb get, and just one worm in the can. One day I was on some English-teaching or editing site and the original poster answered a question about "Got Milk? which is or became an advertising slogan. She said it wasn't grammatical. And I said, of course, it is grammatical. "Got milk?" is a foreshortening of: "Have you got milk?" I just went back and read some of the online posters on this topic and, alas, most of them are confused.

The expression was coined by Americans (an advertising agency), and Americans use: got to mean "Do you have". This is perfectly logical as in English: Have you got/do you have are the two forms of the verb have (have/have got). And Americans say for example: I got milk in the fridge. Or I got money in the bank. to mean have. Originally, this was: I('ve) got milk in the fridge. And there are also Americans who do say: I've got milk in the fridge or money in the bank. I would favor the latter, but in any case, I might very well use the shortened form: Got money in the bank?

Now, get can also mean to buy or purchase in most varieties of English: I got (bought) milk at the supermarket. Now, here, if asking a question in shortened form, I would say: Get milk? for: Did you get milk? And not: Got milk? In shortened forms, questions use the main verb, not the auxiliary: Did you see the movie? can become: See the movie? And the meaning is simple past. This is true in BrE as well. "See your old friends, did you?"

I hope you appreciated the worm. The can is very full and I have not extracted all of them by any means.

(Please note: I did not get into the fact that in UK English, the simple present and present perfect of using "have got" are the same thing where at times only context will tell which tense is meant. "We've got many inquiries about that." That worm is still roiling around in the can.)

  • A link to the John Lawler's whiz deletion would make this a very good answer. +1 in any case
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 16:28
  • @Mari-LouA I think referring to it is enough.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 16:54
  • Here's a link to Whiz-Deletion, but I don't see where it comes into this question. Whiz deletion is strictly for deleting pronoun subjects and auxiliary be's in restrictive relative clauses, which don't feature in the question afaics -- though I can rarely see very far. Commented May 15, 2022 at 16:56
  • 1
    @JohnLawler Come now, we all know who the whiz here is. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 17:34

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