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  1. #1
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    word order in embedded questions

    I'm wondering about the word order in embedded questions. In the following examples we follow a regular sentence order:
    a) I wonder what he likes.
    b) I'd like to know where the pharmacy is.
    c) I don't know what colour her hair is.

    Here, however, we stick to the question word order:
    d) I don't know what's wrong.

    How so? How would you explain this?

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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Yes, when you want to join two sentences where the second one is a question, it must lose the question form. In your last example, the question is subjective so it can't lose the question form, so it remains unchanged. Like:

    I don't know. Where is James now? ===> I don't know where James is now.
    I don't know. Who goes to work everyday? ===> I don't know who goes to work everyday.

  3. #3
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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Quote Originally Posted by English Freak View Post
    Yes, when you want to join two sentences where the second one is a question, it must lose the question form. In your last example, the question is subjective so it can't lose the question form, so it remains unchanged. Like:

    I don't know. Where is James now? ===> I don't know where James is now. This doesn't "remain unchanged." Unchanged is "I don't know where is James now"
    I don't know. Who goes to work everyday? ===> I don't know who goes to work everyday.
    I'm not sure that this is a good explanation. It's true that "What's wrong" remains unchanged; but you're comparing it to questions that do change order.
    Also, how is d) any less subjective than a)? If subjectivity were the reason, then a) should be "I wonder what does he like", which it isn't.

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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Dear Raymott,

    I didn't say the following example remains unchanged "I don't know. Where is James now? ===> I don't know where James is now." I just gave two different examples and I said:

    1) I don't know. Where is James now? ===> I don't know where James is now. (It loses the question form hence changed.)

    2) I don't know. Who goes to work everyday? ===> I don't know who goes to work everyday. (It doesn't lose the question form hence unchanged.)

    And better to talk about subjectivity this way to make it clear. In "What is wrong?", the word "what" plays the role of a subject becaue it's asking about the subject, while in "What does he like?", "what" is asking about the object.
    Awaiting to be confirmed.

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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Quote Originally Posted by English Freak View Post
    Dear Raymott,

    I didn't say the following example remains unchanged "I don't know. Where is James now? ===> I don't know where James is now."
    You may not have meant it; but if you write:
    "... so it remains unchanged. Like:
    - sentence 1
    - sentence 2"
    you are saying that it remains the same, like the two sentences you've listed.

    And better to talk about subjectivity this way to make it clear.
    So, when you say an example is "subjective", you mean that it deals with the grammatical subject?

    In "What is wrong?", the word "what" plays the role of a subject becaue it's asking about the subject, while in "What does he like?", "what" is asking about the object.
    Yes, I see your point now. If "what" refers to the subject, the word order doesn't change.
    Awaiting to be confirmed.
    I agree that this seems to be the case in most examples.
    i) "What makes the sun come up? I don't know what makes the sun come up." - no change.

    But in ii) "What is it?" doesn't "what" also refer to the subject? But we change that to "I don't know what it is."
    "I don't know. iii) What is the matter?" -> "I don't know what the matter is." OR "I don't know what's the matter." Both of these are possible.
    So, if the sentence contains a copula, the rule doesn't always work.
    We can't change "What is wrong" to "I don't know what wrong is" because this changes the meaning.

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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Actually, to me it's easier to think that in embedded questions you just keep the declarative sentence order, whether we're talking about the subject or the object.And if the point of reference happens to be 'subjective', then lucky me, I don't really have to do much.

    So, If I understand right, there might be a few exceptions to the general rule when we're dealing with the subject wh-phrase and a copula, e.g.
    a) What's wrong? ==>I don't know what's wrong. - 'What' refers to the subject, there's a change in word order.
    b) What's the matter? ==> I don't know what's the matter/ I don't know what the matter is. - 'What' refers to the subject, yet both options are possible.

    If there's no copula and the wh-phrase refers to the subject, we just stick to the declarative sentence order e.g.
    c) What happened. ==> I don't know what happened. - 'What' refers to the subject, no change in word order

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    Re: word order in embedded questions

    Quote Originally Posted by nyota View Post
    Actually, to me it's easier to think that in embedded questions you just keep the declarative sentence order, whether we're talking about the subject or the object.And if the point of reference happens to be 'subjective', then lucky me, I don't really have to do much.

    So, If I understand right, there might be a few exceptions to the general rule when we're dealing with the subject wh-phrase and a copula, e.g.
    a) What's wrong? ==>I don't know what's wrong. - 'What' refers to the subject, there's a change in word order.
    b) What's the matter? ==> I don't know what's the matter/ I don't know what the matter is. - 'What' refers to the subject, yet both options are possible.

    If there's no copula and the wh-phrase refers to the subject, we just stick to the declarative sentence order e.g.
    c) What happened. ==> I don't know what happened. - 'What' refers to the subject, no change in word order
    Yes, that's a good summary of what has been said. However, I've never thought about this problem before, so don't take all this for 'gospel'. I would welcome English Freak or anyone else to add to the thread if they consider the above to be an inadequate summary or explanation.
    But I think those rules work.

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