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20 / 07 / 2006

INDIRECT QUESTIONS: meaning and examples

Good morning, everyone.

Today we're going to look at a frequently occurring error amongst students. Consider the following incorrect sentence: 

1)  ***Let's ask where is the restaurant.***

Can you see what's incorrect about this sentence?

The problem is with WORD ORDER. The second verb (IS) is positioned before the subject, like a normal interrogative sentence. However, the second part of the sentence is NOT an interrogative. It is part of an INDIRECT QUESTION. The correct version of sentence (1) is sentence (2) below:

2) Let's ask where the restaurant is

Compare the following questions:

Direct Question --> Where is the restaurant?
Indirect Question --> Do you know where the restaurant is?

Because we first learn question words in the context of the interrogative, we associate them with the interrogative pattern of verb subject. However, it is not correct to use this word order when we are not making a question.

Here is another example of an incorrect sentence:

3)  ***He knows what is the problem.***

The correct version of sentence (3) is sentence (4) below:

4)  He knows what the problem is.

It's difficult to catch yourself making these mistakes when you are speaking, but if you begin to pay attention and watch out for these indirect-question patterns, I'm sure you will be able to avoid this error in your English over time.

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I hope you have a good day!