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Hi, teachers,

We don’t know how we can solve this problem.
He asked me what the price was.

In my opinion, the underlined clauses are both an indirect question and a noun clause. Could you tell me the difference between an indirect question and a noun clause?

I appreciate your help.
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They are both noun clauses, object of the main verb in the sentence. Both clauses pose questions. If converted to main clauses, you have to invert the subject with the helping verb, and (for indirect questions) perhaps change the tense of the main verb, and put it in quotations.

We don’t know how we can solve this problem. -> How can we solve the problem? We don't know. (Direct question.)
He asked me what the price was. -> He asked me, "What is the price?" (Indirect question. It is indirect because the writer or speaker is not asking the question. Someone else is asking the question)
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I appreciate your help.
AnonymousWe don’t know how we can solve this problem. He asked me what the price was. In my opinion, the underlined clauses are both an indirect question and a noun clause. Could you tell me the difference between an indirect question and a noun clause?
I don't like the term 'noun clause' simply because such clauses don't behave like nouns; and it's really a very outdated expression - modern grammars usually call them 'content clauses'. But if you must use the term 'noun clause', then the underlined clauses in your examples would be called 'interrogative noun clauses' because they appear where one might expect to find a noun.

But you're quite right in thinking they are a kind of 'indirect question', as AS confirmed, though I prefer the term 'embedded question'. They express questions but do not themselves ask them. Usually the construction can be glossed with the formula "the answer to the question":

"We don't know the answer to the question 'how can we solve this problem?'"
"He asked me the answer to the question 'what was the price?'"

Does that make sense?

BillJ
Hello, Anonymous:

I have been thinking about your intriguing question. Maybe this is an answer (not "the" answer):

The difference between an indirect question and a noun clause is that every indirect question is a noun clause, but not every noun clause is an indirect question.

One of my favorite books (written for ordinary people like me) says this: "The following sentences contain indirect questions, and therefore [my emphasis] noun clauses."

Here are three of its examples:

I want to know what you are saying.
Can you tell me what he said to offend you?
I do not know whose house she is buying.

Source: Homer C. House and Susan Emolyn Harman, Descriptive English Grammar (Englewood, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1931, 1950), p.383.

HAVE A NICE DAY!
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