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    #1

    The position of the verb to be in a sentence (middle or final)

    When we ask a simple question using the verb to be, the verb immediately follows the wh- word. For example: What is the meaning of the word?

    However, when we add another clause in front of this question (She has to guess what is the meaning of the word.) It becomes grammatically incorrect.

    I think it's supposed to be "She has to guess what the meaning of the word is."

    How, as an ESL instructor (without much experience!), do I go about explaining why the placement of is in the middle of the sentence is wrong?

    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: The position of the verb to be in a sentence (middle or final)

    You are forgetting that, in English, we flip the noun/verb order between statement and question. The more common use of these words is as a question, so the 'flip' might seem strange. It isn't.

    Ask the question: "What is the meaning of the word?" Answer (statement): 'The meaning of the word is...'

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: The position of the verb to be in a sentence (middle or final)

    In direct questions, we invert subject and auxiliary verb (or DO if there is no other auxiliary) unless the question word is the subject:


    Where do you live?
    What does this word mean?
    Where can I buy tram tickets?
    What is the meaning of the word?

    Who
    (subject) lives in that house?

    In indirect questions, we do not invert subject and auxiliary. If there is no auxiliary, we do not need auxiliary DO:

    He asked me where I live.
    She has to guess what this word means.
    Peter doesn't know where he can buy tram tickets.
    She has to guess what the meaning of the word is.
    Mary wants to know who lives in that house.

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