I don't know who is Bob.

< Previous | Next >

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Do the second and the fourth sentences only work?

I don't know who is Bob.
I don't know who Bob is.
I don't know who is he.
I don't know who he is.

Thank you very much.
 
  • stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you.

    How about these sentences?

    I don't know what is gravity.
    I don't know what gravity is.
    I don't know what is it.
    I don't know what it is.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Who and what in your sentences are relative pronouns, not interrogative pronouns. Therefore, the verb in the relative clause stays after the subject.

    I don't know what is gravity. :cross:
    I don't know what gravity is. :tick:
    I don't know what is it. :cross:
    I don't know what it is. :tick:
     

    stephenlearner

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If we think "what" is the subject of the clause, and "is gravity" is the predicate, then "I don't know what is gravity" seems to be grammatical.

    It can parallel to this sentence: I don't know what will happen. "what" is the subject of the clause.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    A. I don't know what is real.:tick:
    B. I don't know what is gravity. :cross:

    It's very mysterious. Perhaps these are different meanings of the word "what"?

    In sentence A, "what" really means "which", and multiple things are being compared: which (of these things) is real? which (of these) is false?

    Sentence B means "I don't know how to define gravity." So apparently "what is " here implies missing word and means "what is the definition of".

    English is terrible this way. We use ellipsis (omitting words) all the time! It's amazing that anyone manages to speak this language!
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    If we think "what" is the subject of the clause, and "is gravity" is the predicate
    Unfortunately that thinking is wrong. This problem occurs when we use a linking verb like "is". Here gravity is the subject. Think of what the reply would be:
    A: I don't know what gravity is.
    B: Well, let me tell you. Gravity is a physical phenomenon whereby...

    It's different with non-linking verbs. In your example with "what will happen", what is the subject.
    But happen is intransitive, and a better example would be to think about how you would formulate a similar statement with a transitive verb:

    I don't know what horses eat. :tick:
    I don't know what eat horses. :cross:


    Here, horses is the subject, but we can also envisage a situation in which what is the subject:

    I don't know what causes earthquakes. :tick:
    Who and what in your sentences are relative pronouns, not interrogative pronouns. Therefore, the verb in the relative clause stays after the subject.
    I'm not convinced this is a correct explanation. These are not really relative clauses in the usual sense because there is no antecedent. Therefore it seems to me that these pronouns are not relative; they must be a different kind.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top