The verb “do” is among the most common English verbs, and like most verbs we use a lot, it’s irregular. “Do” and “does” are both forms of the verb “do” in the simple present, so which is correct, “do” or “does?”
When you talk about yourself, you should say, “I do” as in “I do the dishes,” not “I does the dishes.” Even though the verb “do” is irregular, it still follows the rule that a present tense verb, in the third-person singular, needs an “s” at the end. For example, “I eat” and “he eats.” Like other verbs, “do” gets an “s” in the third-person singular, but we spell it with “es” — “does.”
Let’s take a closer look at how “do” and “does” are different and when to use each one. We’ll also talk about how to make negative sentences and questions with “do” and “does,” and we’ll even check out some common phrasal verbs and expressions that use “do.”
Do Is a Verb: What Does It Mean?
“Do” and “does” are action verbs, and we use them to describe an activity in the present tense (source). Remember that we use the simple present tense to talk about habits or activities that happen consistently over time.
Is It “I Do” or “I Does”?
Say “I do” when you are talking about work or an activity you are performing yourself. Here are some examples:
- I always do my homework before dinner.
- I do the dishes after we eat.
You only need to use the word “does” when you use the third-person singular to talk about another person or thing (source). Look at these sentences:
- He always does his homework before dinner.
- She does the dishes after we eat.
- That car does well in the snow.
Can We Use “Do” with “I”?
As we’ve learned from the previous examples, you can use “do” with “I.” Bearing that in mind, which of these sentences is correct?
- I do all my chores on Saturday.
- I does all my chores on Saturday.
If you chose the first sentence, you’re correct! Remember, we need “do” when the subject is “I.”
Can We Use “Does” with “I”?
This also raises the question of whether we can use “does” with “I.” Simply put, no, you cannot use “does” with “I.” Consider the next examples. Which sentence is correct?
- I does it as many times as it takes.
- I do it as many times as it takes.
The second sentence is correct. Remember, the third-person singular is the only subject that uses “does.” You can say, “He does it as many times as it takes,” but you cannot say, “I does it as many times as it takes.”
“Does” and “Do” Chart
Here’s an easy chart to help you remember when to use “does” or “do.”
As you can see from the chart, you should always use “do” in the simple present tense when you are talking about anyone except he, she, or it. For those subjects, you need “does.”
Do or Does Singular
For proper subject-verb agreement, the singular subjects “I” and “you” need the word “do.” To describe how singular subjects “he,” “she,” or “it” complete an action, you will need to use the word “does.”
- I do my best.
- You do my hair exactly how I like it.
- She does everything with a smile.
Of course, if you are using someone’s name or the name of an “it,” you’ll also use “does.”
- Mr. Garcia does car repair from his shop.
- This printer also does color, as well as black and white.
Do or Does Plural
In contrast, for proper subject-verb agreement, you should use “do” with all plural subjects, like “we,” “they,” or the plural “you.”
- We do the laundry every week.
- They do their jobs well.
- You do your best all the time.
- They do volunteer work at the library.
“Does” and “Do” Examples
Now you try! Look at these sentences and decide if you should use “do” or does.”
1. Mr. and Mrs. Lee always _____ what they say.
2. You guys ______ that project, and we can _____ this one. (you → plural)
3. The horse ______ laps around the track.
4. I _____ the sewing by hand.
5. You and I ______ whatever we want.
6. You _____ a good job when you cook. (you → singular)
7. I _____my work from home now.
Here are the answers. How did you do?
2. do, do
Using Do and Does With Various Sentence Structures
There are many different ways to use the verbs “do” and “does,” whether as main verbs or helping verbs. In this section, we’ll review the main applications for both.
Do and Does in a Positive Sentence for Emphasis
Occasionally, we can use “do” and “does” as helping verbs. However, this isn’t very common in positive sentences unless you want to give extra emphasis to the sentence’s main verb. You will still use “does” with the third-person singular and “do” with all other personal pronouns.
Here are some examples of how either “do” or “does” can provide emphasis for your main verb:
- I do want to go; please call me! (You do not think I want to go)
- He does like pickles on his sandwich. (You thought he did not like them.)
- Sally and Harry do want to get married; they just don’t know when.
Making Negative Sentences With Do and Does
We also use “do” and “does” as helping verbs in negative sentences if the main verb is not “be.” Just add the adverb “not” after the helping verb “do” or “does,” then use your main verb. You will still use “does” for “he,” “she,” and “it” and “do” for all other personal pronouns. Consider the following examples:
- I do not want to go.
- You do not need to help me.
- Marla does not eat meat.
- We do not exercise on Fridays.
- You (plural) do not use plastic forks.
- They do not think it will happen.
Any of these sentences are fine. However, it’s much more common to make a contraction with “not,” especially when you are speaking. Simply combine “do” or “does” with “not” into one word, and then replace the “o” in “not” with an apostrophe.
- I don’t want to go.
- You don’t need to help me.
- Marla doesn’t eat meat.
- We don’t exercise on Fridays.
- You don’t use plastic forks.
- They don’t think it will happen.
Making Questions With Do and Does
A very common way to ask questions in English is by using “do” and “does” as helping verbs. Use them when you are asking a question that needs a “yes” or “no” answer.
The rule for when to use “do” and “does” is still the same. You need to use “does” with “he,” “she,” or “it” and “do” with “I” and all other personal pronouns (source). Here are some examples:
- Do you like chocolate ice cream?
- Does he need help?
- Do they make a lot of money?
- Do we have a meeting today?
The answer to all of these questions can be a simple yes or no. If you need a longer answer to a question, you can add a question word — who, what, where, when, why, how, which — before “do” or “does.”
- Why does he always arrive late?
- How do you spell that?
- What do I use to clean this?
- Who do they live with?
However, there are times you do not need to use “do” and “does” when you ask a question. We’ve already talked about one — when your main verb is a form of “be.” Here are two more:
- When your main verb is a compound verb, like “are going.”
- When you use a modal verb, like “can,” should,” have,” etc.
Making Negative Questions With “Do” and “Does”
To make negative questions, you should use the contractions “don’t” and “doesn’t.” It’s very rare to form a negative question by saying or spelling “do not” or “does not.” Instead, just put these contractions at the beginning of the sentence, before the subject. These questions only need a “yes” or “no” answer.
- Don’t I look pretty?
- Doesn’t that dog need a bath?
- Don’t we have a meeting today?
Do and Does Can Substitute for Other Verbs
If your listener knows what action you are talking about, you can also follow “do” and “does” with the pronoun “it.”
- We do it every week. (the laundry.)
- He never does it until the weekend. (his homework.)
- They do it with love. (their cooking)
- This machine does it better. (the function of the machine you are talking about)
Speaking of pronouns, be aware that it’s not a good idea to directly follow “do” or “does” with a pronoun that refers to a person, like “him,” “her,” or “us.” Sentences like that are either so casual that they sound uneducated, or they can refer in a derogatory way to activities that you wouldn’t talk about in normal conversation.
However, you can use possessive pronouns, like “my” and “her,” followed by a noun.
- I do her hair every morning.
- Does Mr. Smith do your yard three times a week?
Other Ways to Use Do and Does
You can also use “do” and “does” with indefinite pronouns like “everything” and “nothing” to talk about activities.
- I do everything around the house.
- She does nothing unless someone asks her.
And finally, you can use “do” and “does” with an adverb to describe how you performed that activity.
- They do their jobs well.
- Matthew does his homework quickly.
Pronouncing Do and Does
“Do” and “does” also have irregular pronunciation, but don’t worry! Once you learn how to say them, they are easy to remember. The following pronunciation guides use Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (source) and IPA symbols to help you (source).
|Do||\ˈdü\||/duː/||Pronounce “do” like you pronounce “you” or “two.”|
|Does||\ˈdəz\||/dʌz/||Pronounce “does” as you pronounce “was” or the second syllable of “be-cause.”|
Some Useful Idioms and Phrasal Verbs With “Do”
Since we use “do” and “does” a lot, there are also many expressions and idioms that use these two words (source). Here are a few:
Do (someone) a favor → to do a kind or helpful act for someone:
- Molly, would you do me a favor and help me move these boxes?
Do business → to sell or buy from:
- That deal sounds good; can we do business?
Do you good → a good thing that will help you:
- Take this medicine; it does you good.
Do a number on → to hurt or harm someone or something:
- The puppy does a number on my shoes.
Do-over → a second try to accomplish a task that was previously unsuccessful:
- Can I have a do-over?
Do the trick → to produce the desired result:
- I fixed the picture frame with a nail; that should do the trick.
Do you read me → this is serious; it is important that you do as I say:
- Jonathan, do not play in the street. Do you read me?
How to Answer “How Are You Doing?”
Finally, what should you say when someone asks you, “How are you doing?” You can’t answer this with the present tense “I do.” Instead, you need to use the present continuous, as they did in their question. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
You might answer, “I’m doing well” or “I’m doing good.” Both are correct, but they mean different things. Check out this article on the difference between “doing well” and “doing good.”
Remember, you should use “does” for the third-person singular. Use “do” for all other personal pronouns, both singular and plural. This rule applies when you use “do” as an action verb, as well as when you use it as a helping verb.
The more you listen to native speakers and practice your own speaking, the more you will discover that using “do” and “does” correctly will soon become natural for you.