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    #1

    past simple tense

    Could someone out there please help me give a grammatically-sound reason why it is better to say "What stirred the people to respond that way?" instead of "What did stir the people to respond that way?"

    I am an editor and my client is not first-language English; he insists that he was taught to add the auxillary verb 'did' when he expresses something in the past tense, but for reasons which I (obviously) can't explain, 'stirred' sounds right and 'did stir' sounds awkward.

    Any help will be much appreciated, thank you.

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    #2

    Re: past simple tense

    Quote Originally Posted by ed-detour View Post
    Could someone out there please help me give a grammatically-sound reason why it is better to say "What stirred the people to respond that way?" instead of "What did stir the people to respond that way?"

    I am an editor and my client is not first-language English; he insists that he was taught to add the auxillary verb 'did' when he expresses something in the past tense, but for reasons which I (obviously) can't explain, 'stirred' sounds right and 'did stir' sounds awkward.

    Any help will be much appreciated, thank you.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Ed-detour,


    (1) I believe that one uses "did" only for emphasis:

    Tom: What stirred up the people?

    Martha: There were no free elections.

    Tom: I'm sorry, but I disagree.

    Martha (a little angry): You don't? Well, then, since you

    seem to know everything, what did stir them up?

    Tom: Poor economic conditions.

    Martha: Yeah, I guess you're right.

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    #3

    Re: past simple tense

    I am not a teacher.

    He's thinking of past questions where the subject is not the pronoun: Who did the people kill? When the pronoun is itself the subject, it's different: Who killed the people?

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    #4

    Re: past simple tense

    Thank you to coolfootluke and TheParser for your prompt replies They were both helpful - I enjoyed the dialogue

    I tried that 'emphasis' explanation on him but he still seemed to want a grammatical 'rule' since he was taught to always use 'did' in the past --- argh! How can one argue with the revered First English Teacher??

    I appreciate your help though - thanks again.

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    #5

    Re: past simple tense

    If the word introducing the question is the subject of the verb that follows, then that word is in itself the question. We do not use any other question-formation constructions (subject-verb inversion, etc).

    Who inspired the people? Fred inspired the people.
    What inspired the people? Anger inspired the people.


    If the word introducing the question is not the subject of the verb, or if there is no word introducing the question, then we need to use question-formation constructions.

    Who did the people love? The people loved Evita.
    What did Fred hate? Fred hated stupidity.
    Did Fred love Evita? Yes, Fred loved Evita.


    Just as we can use DO in affirmative sentences for emphasis, we can also use it in questions.

    (I know that Tom and Dick didn't inspire them, so...) Who did inspire the people?

    I haven't added anything to what TheParser and Coolfootluke have already said; I have merely worded it (in blue) to look like 'rules'. I hope that helps.

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    #6

    Re: past simple tense

    To fivejedjon,

    Thanks! That is very helpful and I appreciate your effort to help me

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