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indirect question with "there be" form

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  • andy
    Participant
    23 April, 2009 at 4:03
    • Total posts: 4

    My colleagues and I came across a question while teaching students to use indirect question with "there is/are" form. Could anyone tell me which one of the following sentences is correct?

    a. I don’t know how many students there are in this class.
    or
    b. I don’t know how many students are there in this class.

    The basic guideline to this, as what I’ve learned, is to invert the subject and verb of its direct form, except when the question word (like "what") is itself the subject of the question. But is it correct to see "how many students" here as the subject AND the question words (hence no inversion should be made–there are), or to see "how many" as the question words and "students" as the subject (hence inversion should be made–are there)?

    Thanks for the help :P

    phil
    Participant
    23 April, 2009 at 16:35
    • Total posts: 55

    Reply To: indirect question with "there be" form

    I think you run the risk here of confusing your students more than is necessary and having them over-analyse – I was confused myself reading your question :D

    a. I don’t know how many students there are in this class

    …is correct.

    I would stick with the simple rule that in indirect questions we put the subject before the verb, as above, and if anything comes up that suggests differently, deal with it at that point.

    Phil

    rubyut
    Participant
    24 April, 2009 at 12:15
    • Total posts: 4

    Reply To: indirect question with "there be" form

    I agree with Phill –
    You are confusing me too with your question –
    english is simpler than you think – the strukcure of the sentence is always the same.

    a. is correct

    andy
    Participant
    7 May, 2009 at 2:53
    • Total posts: 4

    Reply To: indirect question with "there be" form

    I think you run the risk here of confusing your students more than is necessary and having them over-analyse – I was confused myself reading your question :D

    a. I don’t know how many students there are in this class

    …is correct.

    I would stick with the simple rule that in indirect questions we put the subject before the verb, as above, and if anything comes up that suggests differently, deal with it at that point.

    Phil

    Thanks a lot, Phil! I too was afraid my question would confuse many who would like to help, but I still failed to get it straight:-( I never had any doubt about the rule of switching the subject and the verb until I started to teach my students the grammar, facing some textbooks written by local Taiwanese teachers who teach otherwise. These books seem to have push English grammar into a realm of notorious elusiveness, adding one "exception" and another to "the rules," making them a target of ridicule by the students.

    I didn’t mean to make my question confusing. To me English is really not that complicated than what those textbooks are teaching. Totally agree with rubyut!

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