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Embedded Questions

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What is an embedded question?
An embedded question is a question included in another question or statement. Embedded questions feel less abrupt, and so have a softening effect. For example, compare the following:

    A:    What time is it? (simple question)    
    B:    Sorry. I don't know the time. (simple statement)

    A:    Do you know what time it is? (embedded question in a question)
    B:    Sorry. I don't know what time it is. (embedded question in a statement)

What is the sentence structure?
Embedded questions in statements and questions follow the same pattern. This is true for both wh-questions and yes/no embedded questions. Let's look at the following:<b/p>

    main question/statement  |  interrogative  |  subject  |  verb  |  object/complement

    A:    Do you know  |  what  |  time  |  it  |  is?
    B:    I don't know  |  what  |  time  |  it  |  is.

    A:    Do you know  |  if  |  it  |  is  |  2:00?
    B:    I don't know  |  if  |  it  |  is  |  2:00.

Notice the sentence structure following the interrogative (question word). Because embedded questions are noun clauses, they follow the structure of a statement and not a question. In other words, always use: subject + verb + object/complement.

    Do you know  |  what  |  time  |  is  |  it?  (incorrect)
    I don't know  |  what  |  time  |  is  |  it.  (incorrect)

How are embedded questions used?
The speaker can use the following phrases when asking a question or providing a statement:

    main questions / statements      embedded question  
    Do you know      what  
    Do you remember      where  
    Can you tell me      when  
    Could you tell me      who  
    subject + verb + object
    I don't know      why  
    I can't remember      how  
    I'm not sure    
    Please tell me    

Here are some examples of questions:

    Do you know what the housing market will be like next year?
    Do you remember when President Clinton got impeached?
    Can you tell me the way to the nearest bus stop?

And here are some examples of statements:

    I don't know how I'll be able to retire at 65. It's so hard to save money nowadays!
    I can't remember why I decided to get an MBA.
    He's not sure if he can fly in for the wedding next month.

Is there any additional information on embedded questions?
No, there isn't.

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