when by

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collie

Member
Korean
I read the following conversation.

Tutor: Then you do the proof reading.
Student : When by, do you think?
Tutor : I'd aim for 29 June.

Here, the student asked "When by?"
I thought the question should be "By when?", but I guess I was wrong.
Do you usually say 'when by' instead of 'by when'?

Would you please explain any difference between the two?
 
  • b1947420

    Senior Member
    British English
    I read the following conversation.

    Tutor: Then you do the proof reading.
    Student : When by, do you think?
    Tutor : I'd aim for 29 June.

    Here, the student asked "When by?"
    I thought the question should be "By when?", but I guess I was wrong.
    Do you usually say 'when by' instead of 'by when'?

    Would you please explain any difference between the two?
    This form of words is used in spoken British English and as you are aware means "by when" which is the normal word order and you are not wrong.

    By inverting the word order the questioning word "when" comes first and has the effect of amplifying the question aspect.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Both "By when?" and "When by?" are certainly heard and understood. "When by" is a little more, what? Colloquial, casual, regional, something else? I don't know, but I hear it. It's also helpful to remember this is conversation and people will say what they want -- if they're understood, which they would be in this case, all the better.
     

    tannen2004

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    I have to say that "when by" is, in my experience, not frequently used in AE. (I actually had to read it twice to figure out what it meant!) "By when" is by far the most common of the two here.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    (I actually had to read it twice to figure out what it meant!)
    I don't think this is a BrE/AmE issue - I had to read it twice too:) I think the reason is that "When by" is common in speech, but we don't often see it written down.

    The original version of collie's text is a transcript of a real conversation:
    AMINA: So when you’ve made the changes I suggest you show the work to your Support [...] BRYSON: Tutor. Support Tutor . . . right. . . AMINA: Then you do the proof reading . . . [...] BRYSON: Proof reading . . . uh-huh. When by, do you think?
    [I have removed references to questions: my source was a Cambridge International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam paper.]
     
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