'Do' or 'Does': How to Use Them Correctly

By
Carly Forsaith,
updated on
February 21, 2023

Do you know the difference between 'do' or 'does' and when to use each one? If you don't, not to worry; that's what this article is here to help you with.

In short, 'do' and 'does' are both present tenses of the verb 'to do.'

  • 'Does' is used with third-person singular pronouns.
  • 'Do' is used with all the other pronouns.

Comparing 'Do' or 'Does'

'Do' and 'does' are both forms of the present indefinite tense of the verb 'to do.' Which one you'll use will mostly depend on the sentence's subject. Their usage is almost identical, except for one instance where you can use 'do' and not 'does.'

I'll cover all of them in this article.

How to Use 'Do' or 'Does'

The verb 'do' can be either a main or helping verb.

'Do' and 'Does' as Main Verbs

As a main verb, it denotes action. 'To do' something is "to perform, take part in, or achieve something." Here's how the verb is conjugated in the present tense:

  • I do
  • You do
  • She/he/it does
  • We do
  • They do
  • You do

As you can see, we use 'does' with the third-person singular pronouns and 'do' with all the others.

What does that look like in practice? Here are a couple of examples of 'do' and 'does' used as main verbs:

What shall we do now?

I don't know what she does all day.

'Do' and 'Does' as Helping Verbs

'Do' and 'does' can also be used as helping verbs to form questions. The same pronoun rules apply here. For example:

Do you like karaoke?

Does he cycle to work?

In both cases, 'do' isn't the main verb; instead, it helps the main verb: 'like' in the first sentence and 'cycle' in the second one.

Top Tip! The only verb 'do' can't help is the verb 'to be.' You couldn't say, for example, "Do you be happy?".

Using 'Do' and 'Does' To Avoid Repetition

You can also use 'do' and 'does' to avoid repeating the main verb when it's already been stated.

This comes in handy when answering a question. For example, if someone asks us if we like tomatoes, instead of saying, "Yes, I like tomatoes," we can say, "Yes, I do."

Do you like tomatoes?
Yes, I do.

Does she like tomatoes?
Yes, she does.

It doesn't have to be an answer to a question, though. It can also be used as a substitute verb in almost any sentence to avoid repetition or when the main verb is obvious. For example:

He types much faster than she does.

Instead of repeating the verb 'type,' we use 'does' as a replacement. Here's another example:

I don't play with my dog in the house; I do it in the garden.

'Do' replaces the main verb 'play.'

Using 'Do' and 'Does' for Emphasis

Sometimes you can use 'do' or 'does' to emphasize what you're about to say. So, for example, if you want to say that you like a T-shirt, you can accentuate the verb 'like' with 'do.'

I do like that T-shirt.

Or with 'does,' if the pronoun is third person singular:

She does like that T-shirt.

Using 'Do' for Imperative Sentences

Remember when I said earlier that there was one instance where you could use 'do' but not 'does?' Yep, so that's what I'll explain now.

You can use 'do' with the imperative mood. You use this mood to give someone an order or make a request.

Do the dishes, please.

Do stop by on your way home.

Do not tease your brother.

Using "Do" or "Does" in Negative Form

I wanted to mention a quick word about using 'do' and 'does' in the negative form. If you're forming a negative sentence, you can still use 'do' and 'does' in the same ways as described above, except you'll use the negative form of the verbs:

  • Do → do not / don't
  • Does → does not / doesn't

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Do' and 'Does'

Now that we've covered all the different usages of the 'do' and 'does,' would you like to know how to pronounce them?

'Do' rhymes with 'blue,' 'moo,' and 'shoe.' It sounds like this:

[ doo ]

As for 'does,' it rhymes with 'buzz' and 'because' and sounds like this:

[ duhz ]

In case you're curious, here are the International Phonetics Alphabet spellings:

/ du /

/ doʊz /

Examples of 'Do' and 'Does'

I know we've looked at plenty of examples, but I will list a few more here for each word because I believe repetition and practice are the best ways to improve our English skills. Therefore, the more examples you see, the better you'll understand how to use the words.

Let's start with 'do.'

How to Use 'Do' in a Sentence

I do like the color blue.

They've broken up again; they do this annually.

Do you want your apple pie?

How to Use 'Does' in a Sentence

I love the way she does her makeup.

My dog always does a little excited bark when I tell him we're going out.

Yes, he does believe in Santa Claus.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on the difference between 'do' and 'does' and how to use them correctly. Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • 'Do' and 'does' are present tense forms of the verb 'to be'
  • Use 'does' with the third-person singular pronoun
  • Use 'do' with all the other pronouns
  • You can also use 'do' to form an imperative sentence with any pronoun

If you found this article helpful, you might like the others in our Confusing Words blog archive. Check it out!

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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