Questions - Who / Why in the Past Tense

Past Tense - Lesson #13

We can ask questions using the question words who, what, where, when, why, and how. If a question starts with one of these words, it is not a yes/no question.

In this lesson, we will focus on the words why and who.
  • "Why" asks about a reason.
  • "Who" asks about a person.
The basic pattern for past tense questions is the following.

Question Word + did + subject + verb…?
  • Why did you go to the party?
  • Why did he say that?
  • Why did the computer break?
  • Who did you talk to?
  • Who did he hit?
  • Who did the dog bite?
"Who" can also be used as the subject of a sentence. In this case, the sentence pattern changes.

Who + past tense verb…?

A) Who broke the lamp?
B) Chris broke the lamp.

A) Who called me earlier?
B) I am not sure.

A) Who did this?
B) Ben did that.

Look at the difference between the two.

This is an example of "who" being used as an object.

A) Who did you call?
B) I called Tina.

Here is an example of "who" being used as the subject.

A) Who called?
B) Tina called.

You can make negative questions, but they are not very common. The most commonly used negative questions are with "who" and "why". Negative questions are a little different if you use a contraction.

Question word + did + subject + not + verb…?
Question word + didn't + subject + verb…?

Look at some examples.

A) Why didn't you call me?
B) I forgot.

A) Who did you not invite to the party?
B) I didn't invite Bill because I don't like him.

Also, if "who" is the subject of the question, then it will look like this.

Who + didn't/did not + verb…?

A) Who didn't come to the meeting?
B) Bill didn't come to the party.

Example Questions
  • Why did you quit your job last week?
  • Why did she call me at 2 a.m. last night?
  • Why did she break up with her boyfriend?
  • Why did they try to sell their company?
  • Why did the computer break?
  • Why didn't you call me last weekend?
  • Why didn't she come to the party?
  • Why didn't they fix the computer yet?
  • Why did you not return my email?
  • Why did she not attend the meeting?
  • Why did they not replace the light yet?

  • Who did you see at the concert?
  • Who did she work with on this project?
  • Who did he travel with during his vacation?
  • Who did they call late last night?
  • Who did they argue with at the meeting?
  • Who didn't come to the party?
  • Who did not attend the meeting?

  • Who ate my sandwich?
  • Who called you?
  • Who went with you to the store?
  • Who said that?
  • Who fixed the computer?
  • Who didn't do their job?
  • Who didn't eat lunch?
  • Who did not see the memo?
  • Who did not fill out this form?
English Conversation 1

A) Who did you call just a minute ago?
B) I called my mom.
A) Why did you cry? Is everything okay?
B) Yes, everything is okay.
A) Then, why did you cry?
B) My sister had a baby. I was just very happy.
A) Oh! That is great news.

English Conversation 2

A) Why didn't you come to the meeting?
B) I was busy.
A) The CEO asked why you didn't come.
B) Why did the CEO ask about me?
A) I'm not sure, but I think you should be worried.

Practice speaking English and learn this grammar by finishing the questions below and then practice making your own questions. It is a great way to learn English and improve your English fluency. Also, do not forget to try using it in real life English conversations.

Tip: Say the questions aloud. This will help you practice speaking English and improve your English fluency.

Why did you _______________?
Why did she _______________?
Why didn't he _______________?
Who did you _______________?
Who did your teacher _______________?
Who _______________?
Who didn't you _______________?
Who didn't _______________?