When answering questions in English, it is useful to use common expressions like “I am” or “I do”. These common verbs are used to respond to questions that require a positive or negative answer, giving you a simple, easy response to questions. However, they are used in different contexts, and it is important to know when “I am” is appropriate, and when to choose “I do”. For example, you would answer “Are you driving home?” with “I am”, and “Do you want some cake?” with “I do”. So how do you know which to use?
Matching verbs in questions and answers
The clearest, and simplest way, to understand the relationship between these answers and questions is that questions using to be should be answered with to be (Are you…? / I am), while questions with to do are answered with to do (Do you…? / I do). But what if you did not hear the question clearly, or it was framed differently? Think about why we use the different verbs.
We use to be in English in 2 main ways – either as part of a continuous tense, describing on ongoing action, or to describe a condition or state. This can be quite a complex point, when you get into the detail of it, but it essentially means the answer I am usually relates to current or ongoing activities or states, conditions. For example:
- Are you still eating? I am. (It is ongoing)
- Are you tired? I am. (A state/condition)
What does this mean grammatically? Usually, I am answers current/ongoing activities, signalled by present participles (I am cooking, I am walking, I am going) or states and conditions, signalled by adjectives (I am hungry, I am sad, I am certain)
On the other hand, we use to do to answer general activities or to answer simple questions – ones that would normally formed with the auxiliary verb, to do. This means that to do is mostly for general responses, or – more trickily – to answer states or conditions that relate to a verb rather than an adjective (to feel, to live).
- Do you cycle often? I do.
- Do you feel okay? I do.
Grammatically, you’ll often find I do answering questions that relate to a verb – if it involves an infinitive or bare infinitive, I do will be appropriate instead of I am. This is important because you may be in a situation where both answers seem possible, but one will be more appropriate. Consider these sentences:
- I am feeling okay.
- I do feel okay.
Even when the meaning could essentially be the same, the choice between I am and I do will depend on how the question was framed – with a present participle, or with a bare infinitive.
- Are you feeling okay?
- Do you feel okay?
As always, any questions about this, let me know in the comments!