Hi Teachers,

Could you tell me which is the correct option according to the sentence.

He used to be a bus driver.

a) What did Tom use to be?

b) What Tom used to be?

Thanks in advance
1 2
The first one. A question needs an Auxiliary Verb. In Enlgish these will usually be forms of do,be or have, unless the question word is also the subject ("Who stole my cake?")

If no Auxiliary Verb is present (as the finite verb) "do" must be used.


You know me?


DO you know me?

Who DO you know?

In "What was Tom's job?" "was" is that verb as it's a form of be. So no "did" has to be inserted here.

"He used to be a bus driver." contains "be" but not as the finite verb (which is "used") so it has to be "What did tom use to be?".

To me it would seem a little more natural to ask "What was Tom's job?" or "What did Tom use to work as?"
Hi Noctivagus,

Thank you for your reply. But this is the sentence in context in the book:

Remember Tim Scott? He is the man that spends a lot of time in pubs. Well, he used to be a bus driver, but he is not anymore ...

So the question should be, 'What did he use to be?' right?

Best regards

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You'd better go along with "What did Tom use to be?", because "he" is more general, and

it might relate to other people mentioned in the story as well.

However, if you relate only to the underlined sentence you've provided, so "What did he use to be?"

would answer the question accurately. Both are correct, although it depends on context.
Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for your advice and reply.

Best regards

He used to be a ... OK

What did he use to be? OK

What did he used to be? Tolerated.

What used he to be? NO!

What he used to be? NO!

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Hi Jim,

Thank you for the reply.

You know why I've asked it. Because one of my students according to the sentence, 'He used to be a bus driver' wrote, 'What Tom used to be?' and I said, 'It's wrong' and he said, 'Why' and I said, 'Because you are not asking about the subject, but about what the subject used to be'. Am I right?

Beste regards

Your student's question wasn't grammatical. The question should be: What did Tom/he use to be?

However, his meaning was right. He only forgot to attach the auxiliary verb did to the

subject, Tom. Actually, I don't understand the answer you provided. You do ask about Tom, which

is the subject. Otherwise, the question could relate to anyone mentioned in the text.

You ask: What did Tom use to be? Therefore, you absolutely direct your question to Tom, asking what he used

to be - not everybody else.

Good luck!
Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for your explanation. Sorry, what I meant was, 'You are no asking for the subject' instead of 'about the subject'.

Best regards

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