Do vs. Be: Are You Confused? Do You Need Help?

Even my intermediate level students still struggle with knowing when to use Do and when to use Be in questions.  It’s time to review.


In the simple present and simple past tenses, we use do as a helping verb when we have a different main verb.

Do you think kids are cute? / Do you want to have kids some day? / Does the boy tease the girl often?

Did you tease your sister when you were a kid?  Did you fight with your brother when you were younger?  Did your mother get mad at you for acting like this?

In contrast, we use be as our verb when we do not have another verb in the simple present or past tense.

Typically, be is followed by an adjective, a noun, or a prepositional phrase.

Are these kids cute?  Are these kids typical kids?  Are these kids in trouble?

Were they angry?  Were they bad kids?  Were they on the playground or at home?

Here is another example:


Do you know this man?  Is he famous?  What was his job?  Does he still have the same job?  Is he at an important ceremony?  Did you watch this on TV?

And another:

Frustrated boy, frustrating study

Is he a student?  What is his major?  Where is he right now–at home or at school?  Does he have a big test soon?  Is he nervous?  Did he study enough?

Now you try (the answers are below):

A man and woman working

  1. Where ______________ they?
  2. ___________ they students or __________ they workers?
  3. ______ they work in an office?
  4. ______ they enjoy their jobs?
  5. ______ they use computers every day for work?
  6. ______ they happy to go to work this morning?
  7. ______ they on break now?
  8. How often __________ they take a break during the day?




(Answers: are / are / are / do / do /do / were / are / do )