I wonder if/about/whether

Discussion in 'English Only' started by flaze, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Hi guys. I recently made a grammar quiz for fun on facebook, which included identification of noun clauses, prepositional phrases and other such grammatical jargon.

    However, I was left wondering about how to parse sentences with the verb 'wonder'. This has to do with noun clauses.

    My example sentence was this:

    I wonder whether the dog is outside.

    I is the subject, wonder is the verb - that's not an issue. My problem has to do with where the noun clause starts. Should I parse everything after the verb as conjunction + noun clause? Or does the noun clause start with 'whether'?

    In sentences like I don't know what to say, you can substitute what to say with something, and the sentence is still well-formed. But I wonder something doesn't strike me as right, somehow.

    What think you, my friends?
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  2. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    I can't really answer, but it's an intriguing question, and I want to know too.

    My general feeling is that you need a preposition after "wonder".

    I wonder if/whether/when (?*) ... so I don't think the noun phrase includes "whether".

    Of course you can wonder without a preposition. Sometimes I just sit and wonder.

    But I agree, when you "wonder something", it doesn't sound right.

    *Yikes, that's not a preposition in this case, is it?
  3. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I've been wondering about this.
    Who is part of the relative clause; it's a relative pronoun. So whether is part of the noun clause. If it's not, then what is it?
    What he's doing [noun clause] is no concern of mine - something is no concern of mine. I wonder what he's doing.
    Whether he came [noun clause] isn't important - something isn't important. I wonder whether he came.
    The fact that you can't say I wonder something is irrelevant. These little rules, e.g. about substituting something, are there only as a guide. It doesn't mean that they're going to make complete sense all the time. (In any case, it should be I don't know anything.) I've been informed that you're leaving - noun clause but you can't substitute something. It is known that he lived in York - same thing. (You can say I've been informed of something and Something is known. But that would mean tweaking the sentences.)
    Look at it another way. I don't know whether he's coming - noun clause. I wonder whether he's coming - same thing.
    There quite a few words which are similar to wonder in this respect:
    I'm aware that he's coming (not I'm aware something).
    I'm frightened he'll do something stupid (not I'm frightened something.)
    I'm afraid we've lost the money (not I'm afraid something.)
    I'm sure everything will be all right (not I'm sure something.)
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013
  4. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    To answer perpend's question, I think "whether" is a subordinating conjunction.
  5. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I agree. Is the dog outside? I wonder whether the dog's outside. The conjuction is part of the clause.
    He didn't say (that) he was coming - main clause + noun clause.
    He didn't say whether he was coming - main clause + noun clause.
    I wonder whether he was coming - main clause + noun clause.
  6. flaze Member

    Catania, Sicilia
    English -UK
    Ok thanks guys: great answers - you've really cleared this up for me :)

    The 'something' rule is mainly for esl students, but another quite useful way of identifying what's part the clause is by shifting it into different pronominal positions as rhitagawr did :)

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