I don't know what's the matter.

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  • LV4-26

    Senior Member
    superann said:
    Can you look at the two sentences? Are they both correct?
    1. I don't know what's the matter.
    2. I don't know what the matter is.

    Thank you.
    Good question.
    I'd say 2. is definitely correct
    I'd say 1. is definitely wrong (or maybe only used in oral speech)

    I'm not sure for #1 and I'm glad you asked the question. I have seen it (or similar constructions using subject-verb inversion in an indirect question) a lot here but I seem to remember it was only used by non natives.
     

    Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    LV4-26 said:
    Good question.
    I'd say 2. is definitely correct
    I'd say 1. is definitely wrong (or maybe only used in oral speech)

    I'm not sure for #1 and I'm glad you asked the question. I have seen it (or similar constructions using subject-object inversion in an indirect question) a lot here but I seem to remember it was only used by non natives.
    I think you're just about 100% correct. I've heard #1, but it always sounds sub-standard to me. I definitely would not use it in written form.
     

    tamil_citeee

    New Member
    tamil india
    superann said:
    Can you look at the two sentences? Are they both correct?
    1. I don't know what's the matter.
    2. I don't know what the matter is.

    the first one (what is the matter) could be used for questions.
    So the second is correct
     

    tamil_citeee

    New Member
    tamil india
    superann said:
    Can you look at the two sentences? Are they both correct?
    1. I don't know what's the matter.
    2. I don't know what the matter is.

    Thank you.
    the first one(what is the matter) could be used for making questions.
    so the 2nd is correct.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    This (slight) error is a good one to avoid if you can because it is the sort that even really good foreign speakers of English often get wrong, and when they do stands out. I think the verb in indirect questions (always?) comes at the end, mimicking the form unasked question.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I tend to agree with tim on this one. It's a "matter" of colloquialism, in my view.

    Imagine if you will the scenario of a young woman, in obvious distress, who comes running into her house, flies up the stairs, in a crying fit.

    Her siblings, situated in a living room downstairs, look at one another in obvious confusion.

    One sibling says: "What was that all about? What's the matter with her?"
    Sibling Two: "I don't know what's the matter, but I'll go find out."

    Sibling Two could easily have said: "I don't know what the matter is" in perfect, correct English, but to me it is a bit pedantic and formal in everyday conversation.

    It's one of those scenarios where what is deemed as correct is not necessarily right.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Agreed Jen, with this example. I think as soon as you start to say anything more complicated the verb reverts to the end though?

    "I can't imagine what the height of the Eiffel tower is" never (?) "I can't imagine what's the height of the Eiffel tower".
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    You have made me wonder.

    I don't know what's wrong. I don't know what's happening.
    I don't even know what's provoking the grammarians.

    I don't know what's the matter under discussion.

    Could some kind grammarian tell me why these sentences sound perfectly correct, yet trouble you? Is it that spoken English has unconsciously chosen to ignore yet another rule, or is there something fundamentally offensive going on here?
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    cuchuflete said:
    You have made me wonder.

    I don't know what's wrong. I don't know what's happening.
    I don't even know what's provoking the grammarians.

    I don't know what's the matter under discussion.

    Could some kind grammarian tell me why these sentences sound perfectly correct, yet trouble you? Is it that spoken English has unconsciously chosen to ignore yet another rule, or is there something fundamentally offensive going on here?
    No Cuchu, those sentences are fine. I'm glad I put the (?) in above when I said the verb always goes at the end in indirect questions. From your examples here I will refine that sentence to "the verb always comes at the end in indirect questions after a noun".

    "I wonder how heigh the tower is" not "I wonder how heigh is the tower"
    "I don't know what the problem is" not " I don't know what's the problem".
    "I wonder if anyone knows where Mr Jones is" not "I wonder if anyone knows where is Mr Jones"

    So that just leaves your "I don't know what's the matter under discussion" - and yes for me that sentence sounds strange. I could imagine it being said on occasion by a native speaker, but only in the way we all say some strange things by accident from time to time, not as a usual form of expression.

    Does that answer the question?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    cuchuflete said:
    You have made me wonder.

    I don't know what's wrong. I don't know what's happening.
    I don't even know what's provoking the grammarians.

    I don't know what's the matter under discussion.

    Could some kind grammarian tell me why these sentences sound perfectly correct, yet trouble you? Is it that spoken English has unconsciously chosen to ignore yet another rule, or is there something fundamentally offensive going on here?
    I'm not a grammarian, let alone an English one. Yet I'm confident no grammarian would have anything to object to your sentences except for the last one.
    There's no subject-verb inversion in those as there's no subject.

    I'm sure you'd object to the following :
    I don't know how old is Jack.

    EDIT :
    Question :
    Why does
    I don't know what's the matter
    sound better in everyday speech than
    I don't know how old is Jack

    Proposed answer :
    Because the matter is longer than Jack ?
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    GenJen54 said:
    I agree. To me, "I (don't) know what's the matter" is almost treated as a set phrase.
    Agreed. I have never heard, "I don't know what the matter is with the car" or "I don't know what the matter is with Grandma. She's fallen and can't get up." "What's the matter" is the same as "what's wrong."

    I don't know what's wrong or what's the matter with the car.
     

    James Stephens

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Think of this: Who and what are both interrogative pronouns.

    Who is that woman?
    What is the matter?

    I don't know who is the woman.
    I don't know what is the problem.

    I don't know who the woman is.
    I don't know what the matter is.

    Grammarians have to take a hit here, and accept the contorted construction and bow to popular useage on the street. More formal useage, #2; man on the street, #1. New learners? Qui sait?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    river said:
    Agreed. I have never heard, "I don't know what the matter is with the car" or "I don't know what the matter is with Grandma. She's fallen and can't get up." "What's the matter" is the same as "what's wrong."

    I don't know what's wrong or what's the matter with the car.
    This is interesting. Could we say that this is a case of "contagion" or something, due to the proximity of those expressions (same meaning, similar aspect)? So that what's the matter finally conformed to how what's wrong is used in indirect questions.

    Another reason could be that this expression (as already suggested) is really a set phrase and never used in the affirmative. You'll hardly ever hear : the matter is (that)....
    Nor will you hear :
    - What's the matter
    - It's that....
    (it referring to "the matter")
    As you never use the matter is... in the affirmative, this would explain why I don't know what the matter is sounds pedantic (though grammatically correct)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    cuchuflete said:
    You have made me wonder.

    I don't know what's wrong. I don't know what's happening.
    I don't even know what's provoking the grammarians.
    These are correct because "what" is the subject of the noun clause. In such cases, the word order is "what + verb + rest of the sentence."

    I don't know what's the matter under discussion.
    This is not correct because "what" is not the subject but the predicate nominative. The subject is "matter under discussion" and as such needs to follow the "what." When "what" functions as anything but a subject, the word order is "what + subject + verb + rest of the sentence."
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    I agree with Boy Elroy. "I don't know what's the matter under discussion," sounds foreign to me. "I don't know what the matter is under discussion," is correct. Do I even know what the matter is under
    discussion?
    :eek:

    It's not any matter under discussion, it's an "eek!" face!
    (wake me if you get the lame jest)
     

    superann

    Member
    Mandarin and Taiwan
    elroy said:
    This is not correct because "what" is not the subject but the predicate nominative. The subject is "matter under discussion" and as such needs to follow the "what." When "what" functions as anything but a subject, the word order is "what + subject + verb + rest of the sentence."
    So, that would be I don't know what the matter is under discussion.
    Right?

    In conclusion, the following are both correct.
    I don't know what's the matter (with her). (colloquial)
    I don't know what the matter is (with her). (formal, written)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is surely a substantial difference between:
    What is the matter with Bill, and
    What is the matter under discussion.

    In the first, What is the matter ... is an idiomatic use.
    In the second, What is the matter ... is a straight question about "the matter".
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    panjandrum said:
    In the first, What is the matter ... is an idiomatic use.
    In the second, What is the matter ... is a straight question about "the matter".
    Coming back to my post #18 (second paragraph).
    What is the matter under discussion.
    Of course, in that sense (but in only in that sense, i.e. when matter has its full value and isn't part of a set phrase), you could use it in the affirmative :
    the matter (under discussion) is.....

    EDIT
    superann said:
    So, that would be I don't know what the matter is under discussion.
    Right?
    Again, I'm not a native nor a grammarian but, strictly speaking, I think it should be
    I don't know what the matter under discussion is
    however weird and formal it may sound.
    the whole subject being "the matter under discussion".
     

    Mea Memme

    Member
    Polish
    Hi!
    I've read everything, but I'm still not sure about few things:

    Should I say: "I don't know what's the problem with him"?
    And "I don't know what is happening/going on"

    If I speak, can I say "I don't know what's the matter with him" or "I don't know what's the matter". But if I write "I don't know what the matter is"?

    It's confusing.
     

    Aloyalfriend

    Senior Member
    Persian-Iran
    Is ( I don't know what's the matter)a common but incorrect sentence?
    Is this structure:( I (don't ) know what's ...) Incorrect but common?
     
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