What's the context?
Student or Learner
Could anybody tell me the meaning and usage of "as to why"?
What's the context?
In general, it can often be just a make-weight. Consider these:
Tom asked Dick, 'Why did you hit Harry?'
Tom asked Dick why he had hit Harry.
In reported speech, there's no need for a comma. But in a longer sentence one would be helpful:
Tom asked Dick, surprised by the unwarranted attack, why he had hit Harry.
Now, if you change the transitive verb to something like 'questioned' (which is transitive, but not ditransitive like 'asked' ('Tom asked Dick [Obj1] a question[Obj2]'), you get a sentence that I'd be rather doubtful about:
Tom questioned Dick, surprised by the unwarranted attack, why he had hit Harry.
Here you would use 'as to why':
Tom questioned Dick, surprised by the unwarranted attack, as to why he had hit Harry.
But often people (especially TV/radio news reporters, I think, who use it as a sort of audible punctuation mark in a very long sentence) don't use it to mean a lot. In fact some people don't like it at all. Many speakers just acquire it as a sort of verbal tic, and say things like 'Tom asked Dick as to why he had hit Harry' - which is unnecessarily wordy.
But as mmasny said, we really need more context if you'd like us to explain how it's used in a particular case.
Last edited by BobK; 12-Mar-2010 at 12:49. Reason: Added example
Thank you for the detailed answer.
I am sorry for the delayed response. I am quite busy this week.
I came across the word "as to why" while reading an article about Gandhi.I didn't remember the exact sentence. However, the following sentence conveys the same meaning.
"As to why Gandhi opposed separate electorates for the Dalits? It is merely to suppress the development of Dalits and to keep his own community on the top of the ladder."
I can understand the meaning of "as to why" by the context. But, I have asked this question to know how or where exactly the phrase "as to why" is useful.
Why did Gandhi oppose...?
But 'opposed' doesn't work in a question in direct speech, and the writer adds the extra words to try to repair the potential mistake of writing:
Why Gandhi opposed....?
(In reported speech, these words would be fine:
Why Gandhi opposed ... is a question many people have speculated about.
But in the case of your quote, the 'As to...' is just a journalistic trick that a lot of teachers would disapprove of.