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"He asked who she was" vs "He asked who was she"

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LT-HCM

New member
Dec 20, 2020
10
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Hello,

Could you please share with me the grammar rule that states:

Direct speech: "Who is that?"
Indirect speech: "He asked who that was" (i.e., "He asked who was that" is incorrect)

However, for the direct question "Who eats that?", its indirect pattern is "He asked who ate that."

In short, why is the verb 'to be' treated differently from the others?

But then again, "He wonders who was the girl that visited you yesterday" seems to sound better than "He wonders who the girl that visited you yesterday was."

Thank you,
Lam
 
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englishgeek

Active member
Sep 23, 2020
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I am sorry I can't answer your question.

Why do you say, "He asked who was that " is incorrect. In my mind, it is a grammatically correct sentence.

He wonders who was the girl that visited you yesterday. I would say this is how we write the sentence formally.

He wonders who the girl that visited you yesterday was. We might say this informally and putting the verb at the end of the sentence can show that we don't have the answer and making indirect questions.

I don't know what the answer is.
 

LT-HCM

New member
Dec 20, 2020
10
2
3
In my mind, "He asked who was that " is grammatically correct too - but to many grammar sites, it is not! They all advise putting the verb 'to be' at the end.

Here is one of the sites:


And this is the excerpt from that site for your reference:

"I asked her where the bus station [V]was. (original question: ‘Where is the bus station?’)"
"Not: I asked her where was the bus station" (putting 'was ' before 'the bus station' is incorrect!)


Perhaps putting the verb after the subject is the requirement for converting direct patterns into their indirect forms.

"that" is the subject in "Who is that?". Similarly, 'Who' is the subject in "Who eats that?". Putting the verb after the subject requires that we write "He asked who that was" and "He asked who ate that."

"
He asked who was that" therefore is wrong. If so, "He wonders who was the girl that visited you yesterday" is incorrect too - yet I like its fluidity.

Your thought?
 

LT-HCM

New member
Dec 20, 2020
10
2
3
Not trying to muddle the water, I have is a similar issue regarding forming a question with the verb ‘to be’. Let’s take a look at the two following sentences:

1. “Could you guess who that is?”
2. “Could you guess who is that?”

Clearly, the second one sounds rather unnatural. Now, let’s introduce two more sentences:

1. “Could you guess who would finally be the one to win the match?”
2. “Could you guess who finally the one to win the match would be?

This time, the second one sounds awful and the better way is to write:

“Could you guess who would finally win the match?”

In looking at these examples, I hope that I can form an unquestionable rule to adhere to. Unfortunately, I’m at loss.
 

englishgeek

Active member
Sep 23, 2020
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I don't have any trouble with the second sentence. saying "would be" at the end. Could you guess who finally the one to win the match would be?

It has a sense of "wonderment" about it. I wonder what my son will grow up to be.
 

LT-HCM

New member
Dec 20, 2020
10
2
3
1. "Could you guess who finally the one to win the match would be? " ('be' is the main verb whose subject is 'the one to win the match'). This sentence is awfully plain and boring as one has to wait until the end of the long sentence to know what element plays the role of the subject. Using action verb 'win' would be better)

2. "I wonder what my son will grow up to be." ('grow' is the main verb whose subject is 'my son' - 'wonderment', I agree. In this case, the main verb 'grow' reveals 'my son' to be the subject immediately)

In looking at the two sentences, we can see that 'be' does not play the same role.

Now, regarding the role of 'who' and 'what', while the former can clearly be the subject if we write “Could you guess who would finally be the one to win the match?”, the latter cannot.

If we rely on [S, V] order, we can also see why "Could you guess who she is?" is correct while "Could you guess who is she?" is wrong since 'who' can't be the subject as 'she' is in the wrong position.


Let's get back to the peculiar role of 'be' and change 'she' to 'that girl'. Now, we have "Could you guess who that girl is?" and "Could you guess who is that girl?" mean the same as both 'that girl' and 'who' can be the subject of 'be' and therefore would not violate the [S, V] order. The argument seems to be logical to me, but grammarians would not accept the second sentence and therefore, "Could you guess who would finally be the one to win the match?” should also be rejected! (Cambridge Dictionary example demands the same in the indirect case as shown in the previous thread - Not: I asked her where was the bus station)
 

LT-HCM

New member
Dec 20, 2020
10
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EUREKA!. Yes, it is [S, V] order that we must stick to.

Grammatically correct sentences - [S, V] order is preserved:

"He asked where that was" (answer: That is in London)
"Could you guess who she is? (answer: She is Susan)
"Could you guess who that is?" (answer: That's the girl next door)

Grammatically incorrect sentences - [S. V] order is not preserved:

"He asked where was that" (answer: where is London - 'where' cannot be the subject; 'that' is the subject - answer: that is in London)
"Could you guess who is she?" (answer: who is Susan - 'who' cannot be the subject; 'she' is the subject - answer: she is Susan)
"Could you guess who is that?" (answer: who is the girl next door - 'who' cannot be the subject; 'that' is the subject - answer: that's the girl next door)

"Could you guess who that girl is?" and "Could you guess who is that girl?" are both correct. In the first sentence, 'that girl' is the subject (answer: that girl is Susan).
In the second sentence, 'who' is the subject (answer: Susan is that girl).

I am satisfied with my reasoning now. How about you?
 
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