[Grammar] Would you tell me how can I get to Times Square from here?

Status
Not open for further replies.

LiuJing

Member
Joined
May 30, 2010
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
Would you tell me how can I get to Times Square from here?
------------------------------------------------------------

I know the grammar book would say it not very correct to put 'can ' ahead of 'I ' in this case.

However, if I put it like this, would it be acceptable?

Would you tell me: How can I get to Times Square from here?
Is the pause a must between 'me' and 'how' when we say it ?

Thank you.
 

BobK

Harmless drudge
Staff member
Joined
Jul 29, 2006
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
UK
Would you tell me how can I get to Times Square from here?
------------------------------------------------------------

I know the grammar book would say it not very correct to put 'can ' ahead of 'I ' in this case.

However, if I put it like this, would it be acceptable?

Would you tell me: How can I get to Times Square from here?
Is the pause a must between 'me' and 'how' when we say it ?

Thank you.

It sounds OK to me, although the 'from here' is probably unnecessary ;-) - a 'from X' phrase is only necessary when you're not going from here: 'what's the best way from the Globe Theatre to the Houses of Parliament?' - the speaker wants the information for a future trip.

There is one case where you would use 'from here' - if there's a new one-way system, or roadworks, or the obvious way is blocked for some other reason: 'How do I get to Times Square from here - now that I can't take that right turn?'

b
 

LiuJing

Member
Joined
May 30, 2010
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
BobK, do you mean both are acceptable:

Would you tell me how I can get to Time Square?
Would you tell me how can I get to Time Square?
 

emsr2d2

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jul 28, 2009
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
UK
Would you tell me how [STRIKE]can I[/STRIKE] I can get to Times Square from here?
------------------------------------------------------------

I know the grammar book would say it not very correct to put 'can ' ahead of 'I ' in this case.

However, if I put it like this, would it be acceptable?

Would you tell me: How can I get to Times Square from here?
Is the pause a must between 'me' and 'how' when we say it ?

Thank you.

I would say that in this context, you could say "Can you tell me how to get to Times Square from here?" You don't know for certain if the person you are asking actually knows the way, so you are asking if them if they are able to tell you how to get there.

"How can/do I get to Times Square from here?" is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

As far as a pause between "me" and "how" is concerned, if you look at how I have amended your first question, you will see that no pause is required. If, however, you said "Would you tell me [this] - how can I get to Times Square from here?" then you would have the pause. In my opinion, though, "Would you tell me how I can get to Times square from here?" or "Would you tell me how I get to Times Square...?" sound better.

As BobK pointed out "from here" is redundant as people normally ask for directions to somewhere, from where they are currently standing!
 

LiuJing

Member
Joined
May 30, 2010
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
emsr2d2, thank you for the supplementary explanation.

 

BobK

Harmless drudge
Staff member
Joined
Jul 29, 2006
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
UK
BobK, do you mean both are acceptable:

Would you tell me how I can get to Time Square?
Would you tell me how can I get to Time Square?

I agree with emsr2d2 that if you wrote 'Would you tell me how can I...' it would be wrong; written like that, the second clause is subordinate - so verb and subject should be inverted. But the two clauses are punctuated by an event: 'Would you tell me [something - and you'll have to stop doing whatever you're doing in order to answer]?' Now the answerer stops and pays attention. 'How can I...?' The second clause has become a main clause. In effect, the written version of the request would be 'Would you tell me: how can I get...'

In general, I think it's a mistake to impose the grammar of written English onto speech. So, in answer to your first question, it depends what you mean by acceptable. ;-)

b
 

bertietheblue

Senior Member
Joined
May 21, 2010
Member Type
Other
Native Language
English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
UK
I agree with emsr2d2 that you are asking about ability. To me, therefore, 'can'/'could' sounds more natural than 'would'.

Also, I expect most people would approach a stranger with 'Excuse me!' (or similar) so the structure:

'Excuse me [pause], could you tell me [pause]: how do I get to Times Square from here?'

whilst fine, wouldn't be the mostly likely thing to say - well, for me anyway, especially when there are so many other ways to say it. Here's a few - very roughly, starting from the most polite:

Excuse me ...
you don't happen to know the way to Times Square, do you?
you couldn't tell me the way to Times Square, could you?
you don't know the way to Times Square, do you?

do you happen to know the way to Times Square?
could you tell me the way to Times Square?
do you know the way to Times Square?

(and even more if you replace 'the way' in the above with 'how to get' or 'how I can get')

Frankly though, in most cases, the conversation would be as likely to be:

"'Scuse, you any idea how to get to Times Square?"
"Yeah, straight ahead, ..."
"Cheers. Thanks. Bye!"

Well, for me anyway. I mean, I've excused myself for interrupting and given my thanks so, to me, that passes muster!

Finally, it's right that 'from here' is redundant but this is conversation, not prose. I might not say it, but then I might. I mean, I could happily say:

Excuse, you don't have any idea how to get from here to Times Square, do you?
 

Ouisch

Key Member
Joined
Mar 27, 2006
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
It sounds OK to me, although the 'from here' is probably unnecessary ;-) - a 'from X' phrase is only necessary when you're not going from here:

This is very true (and very logical), but have you ever noticed that probably 80% of the time if you ask someone for directions, their first response to you will be "from here?" :-D I do it, too; my husband recently asked me (with shopping list and car keys in hand) "How do I get to Papa Joe's Market?" and I immediately replied "From here?" "No," he rolled his eyes, "from Pago Pago!" :oops:
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top