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Grammar question: Reported questions
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:00 am    Post subject: Grammar question: Reported questions Reply with quote

I'm looking for some grammar advice!

I've always taught that in reported questions, the word order changes to look like an affirmative sentence, rather than a question:

"What's the time?" = He asked me what the time was.
(Not "he asked me what was the time")

But recently, someone told me he'd seen this in Practical English Usage. (I have an older edition of the book so can't check it.)

(Michael Swan) gives two possibilities for indirect speech:
Direct: who´s the best player here ?
Indirect: She asked me who was the best player.
She asked me who the best player was.

Direct: What´s the matter ?
Indirect: I asked what was the matter.
I asked what the matter was.

Could someone either check in their version of Practical English Usage or help me out with an explanation? To me, the first example sounds at best downright clunky, or at worst, just wrong!

Many thanks in advance!
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My 1997 Swan doesn't say that. If people use it, and if a later version of Swan says it's acceptable, I'll bet it's only in casual situations.
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vabeckele



Joined: 19 Nov 2010
Posts: 439

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the 2005 version and there is no such thing.

Your instincts are correct, and this is given as the first example: Where's Alice?
I asked where Alice was.

And...the subject must ALWAYS come before the verb.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks to you both!
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bumping this up because I've been sent a photo of the page (New Edition, 1995)

From the reported speech section, advanced points.

Indirect speech: Word order with what, who and which with be and complement

When we report questions, 'be' can be put before or after the complement.

Who's the best player here?
She asked me who was the best player.
She asked me who the best player was.

Opinions anyone?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 2673
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess Swan is trying to be all things to all users, which is good in a way. It would help however if he gave a few figures regarding percentages or at least tenor info (formality labels), and/or indicated that the inverted variant might well be considered a slip or mistake. Ultimately, there are more important things to worry about, and if a student is already in the habit of making the error, it may be too ossified a fossilization to break.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12348
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Teacher in Rome,

Really? Well, I swan!! (swan! Rur. What a surprise!),

Guess we don't have to worry about "rules" anymore. Anything goes.

That certainly makes teaching a lot easier. Everybody (doesn't matter who are you) is right all the time Very Happy
.

Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teacher in Rome wrote:
Bumping this up because I've been sent a photo of the page (New Edition, 1995)

You mean you're still using the First edition?! (1980!!!). I thought you were after information from the most recent edition! That is, the Second (which I have) is the 1995. For the very latest and last word from Swan however, I'm afraid you'll have to consult the Third edition (2005). Laughing Wink Cool Edit: But who can afford to quite keep up with ELT book prices nowadays? The Third edition new from e.g. Amazon UK is almost twice the price the Second used to be!
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1211

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Fluffy and John.

Um yes, I've got a really old edition of PEU. Dare not look at the date inside. On the other hand, I thought that English grammar stayed basically the same and that there was no point getting a new edition.

Then of course they go and change all the rules, and what you thought was incorrect is, apparently, now correct.

Tch. Funny old world.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The reported question issue is a thorny one. Whatever about Swan, read relatively older literature and you'll see plenty of examples of reported questions which appear to break the rules. (Don't ask me to give any specific examples, though - can't offhand. But keep an eye out in future and they'll be positively be popping off the page.)

Also, linked to various ... what's the word....? Regionalisms! Folk in various parts of the UK and Ireland use this apparently non-standard form as a matter of course.

Nothing to do with casual situations, as far as I know...

Hic!
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Um yes, I've got a really old edition of PEU. Dare not look at the date inside. On the other hand, I thought that English grammar stayed basically the same and that there was no point getting a new edition.

Then of course they go and change all the rules, and what you thought was incorrect is, apparently, now correct.


I read Crystal once opine that a dictionary should be updated at least every five years, and that seems to be the rough rate now that Longman and Oxford release new editions. With regards to grammar rather than vocabulary, the rate of change is as you say slower, and I'm wary of new editions that come at anything less than a decade apart. I think at least a generation (@20 years say) is needed between editions for any genuine changes to be confidently registered. Ultimately all one can really do is look at the additions or increased size of the work. Swan 2 (1995) was definitely much larger and more comprehensive than Swan 1 (1980), but Swan 3 (2005) hadn't added much and seemed to be dredging up and championing ever more questionable usages, as if they'd help justify the new edition only ten years later. Compare that to the Third (2004) edition of Leech's Meaning and the English Verb, which definitely had some changes to report in modal usage in/after the 17 years since the Second (1987) edition.

Anyhoo...

Would it follow (from what Swan says) that 'She asked had he been' be as fine as 'She asked if he had been'?

Like I said before, personally I think there are more important things to worry about, and I'm sure that people do at least sometimes say (if not write?) the inverted variants.


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:07 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9028
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Probably not the best example to use to show this grammar in use, given how many other rules Joyce liked to break. But heck, where else would I have an excuse to post up Molly Bloom's soliloquy?

"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my *beep* all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "

Ulysses by James Joyce.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9028
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's an ideologically unapproved song to go along with it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3z1neIlOh8
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 2673
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I want to know is, did Joyce break many pencils (or typewriters)? Probably, churning stuff like that out!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I want to know is did he really work for Berlitz?

Analyse that, Fluffy!
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