Do you know who he is / Who is he? [interrogative pronoun position]

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zephyr1345

Member
Japanese
Hi,

I'm having difficulty understanding when interrogative pronouns should be put at the beginning of a sentence.

Based on what I've learned so far, if it is a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns after the predicate verb of the sentence as follows:

Do you know who he is? -- Yes, I do. / No, I don't.

However, if it is NOT a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns at the beginning of the sentence as follows:

Who do you think is the most reliable person in our class?-- Well, I think...


Can the above-mentioned rules be applied to any sentence with interrogative pronouns?

Do you find the following sentences grammatical, acceptable, and natural?

1. When did you say you were leaving for Japan? --I said...

2. Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?-- Yes, I did. / No, I didn't.


I think (1) is both grammatical and acceptable. However, I am not sure whether (2) is acceptable and natural, although I think it is grammatical.
Is it possible that (1) has the same meaning of (2)?
Is (2) the one I should avoid using? What expression would you use if you asked what (2) means?


I would appreciate it if you could help me understand.

Thank you so much in advance.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    1. When did you say you were leaving for Japan? --I said...

    2. Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?-- Yes, I did. / No, I didn't.


    I think (1) is both grammatical and acceptable. However, I am not sure whether (2) is acceptable and natural, although I think it is grammatical.
    Is it possible that (1) has the same meaning of (2)?
    Is (2) the one I should avoid using? What expression would you use if you asked what (2) means?
    2 is fine. There is nothing unnatural or unacceptable about answer a yes-or-no question with "yes" or "no."

    "When" in the first question clearly asks for a date. If somebody used it to ask a yes-or-no question, that speaker was needlessly confusing.
     
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    CasparWeinburger

    Senior Member
    English--Canada
    Hi,

    I'm having difficulty understanding when interrogative pronouns should be put at the beginning of a sentence.

    Based on what I've learned so far, if it is a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns after the predicate verb of the sentence as follows:

    Do you knowwho he is? -- Yes, I do. / No, I don't.

    However, if it is NOT a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns at the beginning of the sentence as follows:

    Who do you think is the most reliable person in our class?-- Well, I think...


    Can the above-mentioned rules be applied to any sentence with interrogative pronouns?

    ................................................
    I have never heard this rule before, but let's try it:

    /What/

    Does she want what I have?
    What does she want that I have?

    How/
    Does your mother like how you behave?
    How do you behave?

    When/
    Does she care when you arrive?
    When do you arrive?

    Where/
    Does he like where I live?
    Where does he sleep?

    Why/
    Have they answered why they lied to you?
    Why did they lie to you?

    Whether/

    Has he answered whether he would come?
    Will you come?

    You seem to be learning direct versus embedded questions, right?
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi owlman5,

    Thank you for your quick response.

    You said (2) is fine. Does it mean both (1) and (2) have the same meaning?

    My understanding is, what is asked in (1) is "When are you leaving for Japan?" and what is asked in (2) is "whether you said the date when you are leaving for Japan."

    So if I say (2), is it possible for listeners to understand what I'm asking is "whether you already said the date of your departure"?
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi CasparWeinburger,

    Thank you for your quick response.


    You seem to be learning direct versus embedded questions, right?

    No, I'm learning a special version of embedded questions.

    I understand the difference between "Do you know who won the race?" and "Who do you think is going to win the election?"

    ("Who do you know won the race?" and "Do you think who is going to win the election?" are not grammatically acceptable, right?)


    "Do you know who won the race?" asks about whether you know who won the race or not.

    On the other hand, "Who do you think is going to win the election?" asks about your opinion about who is going to win the election.


    So, if I say, "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?". would you understand what I want to know--the date when you are leaving for Japan?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    You're welcome, zephyr.
    You said (2) is fine. Does it mean both (1) and (2) have the same meaning?
    I did say that. I wasn't trying to say that 1 and 2 have the same meaning. They don't.

    If you use this version, Did you say when...?, you are not clearly asking your listener for a date. Instead, you are asking for confirmation that the listener mentioned the departure time in some other conversation. A reasonable listener can easily answer with "yes" or "no". If you want numbers in the answer, you'd do well to use the first version or something like it: When are you leaving?

    If you use the first version, you are clearly asking the listener to give you a time and date for departure.
     

    spilorrific

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Caspar,
    First, your question needs "whom" and not "who." The subject is "you." You think [whom] is the most reliable person... Try substituting a person's name and this becomes clearer. Ex: You think John is the most reliable person....You = subj so you need the object "whom," not the subject "who."

    I'm sorry, but I can't give you a rule about positions of interrogatives in y/n questions vs. in what I call "informational" questions (where/when/etc.). But I can provide some feedback.
    Both "Do you know who won the race?" and "Whom do you think is going to win the election?" are correct.
    "Do you know who won the race" does indeed ask whether I know who won the race or not.
    "Whom do you think...election?" does ask my opinion about the election results.

    "When did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" indicates that I want to know the date you are leaving for Japan.
    However, "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" merely asks if you mentioned the date, not what the date was (or is).

    Your original questions (numbered 1. and 2.) are not synonymous, as explained by owlman.
     

    CasparWeinburger

    Senior Member
    English--Canada
    >("Who do you know won the race?")

    Someone might say in this in quickly spoken English, but they would mean /who do you know that won the race/. I would never write /who do you know won the race/.

    >if I say, "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?". would you understand what I want to know--the date when you are leaving for Japan?

    If I understand your question, this questioner is asking you in a polite manner when you are leaving. He could ask, 'when are you leaving for Japan?' but /Did you say/ is a softener and a matter of pragmatics.
     
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    CasparWeinburger

    Senior Member
    English--Canada
    Caspar,
    First, your question needs "whom" and not "who." The subject is "you." You think [whom] is the most reliable person...

    You are responding to the wrong person.

    I will add that both /Who do you think ../ and /whom do you think/ are fine depending on the register. I am sure
    zephyr1345
    understands this difference from what I can tell about his grammar knowledge.
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi owlman5,

    Thank you so much for illuminating my understanding of the difference between them!
    I find your explanation very helpful.

    From what you said, I guess "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" isn't so common, unless you need to ask for confirmation of it.
    As I was not sure whether this version is only grammatically correct or generally acceptable, your explanation did help a lot.

    Thank you so much!

    zephyr
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Based on what I've learned so far, if it is a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns after the predicate verb of the sentence as follows [...] However, if it is NOT a yes-no question, you have to put interrogative pronouns at the beginning of the sentence as follows:
    This is a handy rule for learning the correct form. I certainly have never thought of it in this way, and I doubt most English speakers do, but it works as a formula in order to achieve proper English usage. :thumbsup: Be aware, however, that when English speakers ask a question in a yes/no form they are not expecting a yes or nor answer! In my experience and opinion, giving a yes or no answer to this kind of question is considered smart-alecky and even hostile. :)
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi "CasparWeinburger,

    Thank you so much for responding to my question again!


    Oh, really? someone might use "Who do you know won the race?" I see, this version is not in formal English.

    Interesting! Your interpretation of the question "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" is, I think, a kind of connotation.

    Thank you so much!
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi spilorrific,


    Thank you for responding to my question.

    Your explanation helped me understand clearly the difference between "When did you say you were leaving for Japan?" and "Did you know when you were leaving for Japan?"

    The question I'd like to ask you is, why "who" should be replaced with "whom."

    Thinking about how the question "Who do you think is the most reliable person in my class?" is generated, the question consists of two sentences:

    Do you think...?
    Who is the most reliable person in my class? (here, to be exact, "who" is the subject complement, such as "The most reliable person is John.")
    (I guess you would never say, "Whom is the most reliable person in my class?")

    Then, in case of "informational questions", interrogative pronouns must be raised to the front of the questions.
    So, "Who do you think ( ) is the most reliable person in my question?" is generated.

    That is what I've learned.



     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi RedwoodGrove,

    Thank you so much for responding to my question.

    Yes, I understand what you mean. All I've learned so far is based on the rules written in grammar books, so I need to learn how each sentence or expression is actually used in real conversations which I'd like to learn most! I'd like to learn to use right expressions at the right time and in the right way!

    zephyr
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Then, in case of "informational questions", interrogative pronouns must be raised to the front of the questions.
    So, "Who do you think ( ) is the most reliable person?"


    You are absolutely right that it should be "who" and not "whom" :thumbsup:, but that point has taken us away from your original questions.

    1. When did you say you were leaving for Japan?
    2. Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?-- Yes, I did. / No, I didn't.

    Your (2) is acceptable and natural, but as owlman said, it doesn't mean exactly the same as (1). It isn't a particularly unusual question. It could be taken as an indirect request for information, as well as a straightforward "yes/no" question.
     

    spilorrific

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Sorry, zephyr... After further reflection, I withdraw my earlier comment re: who / whom.
    You think he is the most reliable person.... vs. You think him is the most reliable person? No....
    Indeed, a subject pronoun (who) is needed, not an object. ("Who" is needed, not "whom.")
    Sorry for the confusion.
     

    zephyr1345

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi velisarius,

    Thank you so much for your response!

    I find it interesting that (2) "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" could be taken as an indirect request for information, because I thought the question is a kind of question which asks for information.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    With no context, "Did you say when you were leaving for Japan?" is literally asking whether the other person mentioned the date of departure.(yes/no) It would probably be interpreted as a request for information, but we don't have the context so we can't be sure.
     
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