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Thread: usage of What

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    Default usage of What

    In below two sentences, I heard that "what" clause is used as "relative clause" in one and as "indirect question" in the other.

    I gave her what she needed.
    I asked her what she needed.


    However, the structure of "what clause" is the same in the two.
    If his explanation is right, how do you tell one is relative clause and the other is indirect question?


    Thanks a lot.

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    Smile Re: usage of What

    Quote Originally Posted by yun View Post
    In below two sentences, I heard that "what" clause is used as "relative clause" in one and as "indirect question" in the other.

    I gave her what she needed.
    I asked her what she needed.


    However, the structure of "what clause" is the same in the two.
    If his explanation is right, how do you tell one is relative clause and the other is indirect question?


    Thanks a lot.
    Try doing the following:
    1. split the sentences into two parts:
      I gave her something.
      What she needed.
      and
      I asked her something.
      What she needed.
    2. now, if you are able to make a question out of What she needed and the question fits perfectly in the positon of something in direct reported speech (convert the indirect question What she needed into the direct question What do you need), then you can be sure it is an embedded wh-interrogative clause expressing indirect questions; otherwise, it's a nominal relative clause expressing entities.

    I gave her, 'What do you need?' test failed, so it must be a nominal clause, I gave her what she needed.
    I asked her, 'What do you need?' test passed, so it must be a wh-interrogative clause, I asked her what she needed.

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