Monday, August 31, 2009

Verb Position in Indirect Questions

In English the verb position in indirect questions is usually different from that of direct questions. Indirect questions can also be called embedded clauses because they are attached to clauses known as matrix clauses.

The following examples will help to clarify the difference in the verb position of direct and indirect questions.

Where is he?
I can't remember where he is.

In the indirect question the verb follows the pronoun "he".

What is she doing?
I can't remember what she is doing?

Here the auxiliary verb "is" follows the pronoun "she" in the indirect question.

Which bag is hers?
I can't remember which bag is hers.

Here the verb position is the same in both cases.

Who did she see?
I can't remember who she saw.

Here not only the verb position is different but in the indirect question we have a main verb in simple past rather than the auxiliary in simple past and a base verb.

When can she come?
I can't remember when she can come.

Again we see the familiar pattern where the auxiliary follows the pronoun in the indirect question.

What is the fastest way to get there?
I can't remember what the fastest way to get there is.
I can't remember what the fastest way is to get there.
I can't remember what is the fastest way to get there.

In this case the verb position of the indirect question can vary. It can come at the very end of the sentence, at the end of the noun phrase "the fastest way" or after the pronoun "what".

What is going to happen?
I can't remember what is going to happen.

Here the verb position is the same in both cases.

Do you know what the capital of Tahiti is?
I can't remember what is the capital of Tahiti.
I can't remember what the capital of Tahiti is.

Here the verb position of the indirect question varies. It may come again the pronoun "what" or at the end of the noun phrase "the capital of Tahiti".

In English we usually have a different verb position in direct and indirect questions. With short questions such as "Where is he?" this is invariably the case. However, with the pronoun "which" this does not apply. With "which", the verb position is the same in both direct and indirect questions.

With direct questions that have the auxiliary verb "do", it does not appear in indirect questions. With a be verb followed by "going to", the verb position is invariable. In direct questions with a long noun phrase, the verb position of the indirect question can vary. It may be the same as in the direct question, follow the noun or come at the end of the sentence.

The verb position of direct and indirect questions in English is usually different. However, it is sometimes the same and in the case of long noun phrases may occur in as many as three different places. Thus, the position of the verb in indirect question sometimes varies.

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