What is the matter or What the matter is

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Luke Lue

New Member
Mandarin - China
So my wife is an English editor in China and was going through some English test questions designed for primary school students when she found these two sentences:
1. Books on health are selling well these days.
2. Does anyone know what the matter is with the girl?

Both these two sentences, according to the author of these test questions, are wrong. This guy (the author, actually a famous name in the field of English education for children) told my wife that the correct forms should be:
1. Books on health sell well these days.
2. Does anyone know what is the matter with the girl?

Now I have found this a tad ridiculous for these "correct" sentences are only a bit different and at best alternate versions of the right forms. One might not be correct to the point of negating the other.
But after all I am not a native speaker, so please help shed some light on whether both forms of these two sentences are correct or the truth lies with the author.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    They're all four correct, and there's no significant difference between the versions. Arguably, there's a little bit of an aspect difference between 'sell' and 'are selling', but both are possible.


    Senior Member
    Inglés británico
    All of them are correct (I'd say the "matter" sentences are perhaps more of an issue of style), with little to no difference in meaning.

    There's a slight difference with "sell" and "selling" but nothing significant.

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