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    • Join Date: Aug 2003
    • Posts: 70
    #1

    strange use of does in occupations!

    Hi all,

    I wonder if one or more of you could clarify this one for me.

    In normal Q and A we repeat the verb used in the question:

    Do you have any brothers? Yes, I do.

    However when we ask 'What do you do?' OR 'What does your father do?' we ommit the verb do/does and replace it with is/am/are!

    Could you please explain the grammar rule of this for me in a context that I can explain to a 10 year old student!! I've checked Practical English Usage and as per normal, everything is there bar the point I want addressed!!!

    They keep wanting to say (quite rightly so when thinking of nearly everything else their taught) " what does your father do?" "he does a salesman"!!! Rather than he's or he is!!!!!!!!

    It appears quite a unique change of verb for every day use in this way!!!!

    Many thanks



    Mak

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
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      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,864
    #2

    Re: strange use of does in occupations!

    I think they just have to look at the meaning of this particular question, and thinkof it as a special question:
    What do you do = What is your job/occupation

    What language does he speak?

  1. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
    • Posts: 1,552
    #3

    Re: strange use of does in occupations!

    Consider this question:

    What are you writing?

    In this sentence, "what" is an interrogative pronoun. It is a place-holder for a noun, but we don't know what that noun is. In the answer, we replace the place-holder with the appropriate noun: I am writing a letter/novel/poem.

    There is, however, no interrogative pronoun we can use to replace a verb. Instead, we use the interrogative pronoun "what" to indicate that it's not a yes/no question, and use the dummy verb "do" as a place-holder for the verb we are asking about:

    What are you doing?
    I am reading/writing/working...

    In the question "What do you do?" we can replace the verb "do" in exactly the same way: I translate/drive a train/work in a call-centre/write computer games/am a librarian...

    "Do" isn't always a dummy verb, of course, but is often used as such.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
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    #4

    Re: strange use of does in occupations!

    In addition to Rewboss's analysis, one reason for asking the question is that it covers more than 'what's your job?', which would exclude students, homemakers, the unemployed and others. It is a question that allows for many possible answers.


    • Join Date: Aug 2003
    • Posts: 70
    #5

    Re: strange use of does in occupations!

    Thank you both for the replies.

    Mak

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