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Hello,

My question is about asking questions. Normally asking WH-questions implies the inversion of the auxiliary and the subject (What would Peter say?). But in some cases, I have an impression that the rule does not necessarily applies. For example, I think I've already heard some people say What would be his role ? instead of the regular form What would his role be ?
Could someone tell me if both forms are regarded as correct ? Is the "would be" form is attested but considered substandard ?
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Hi,

My question is about asking questions. Normally asking WH-questions implies the inversion of the auxiliary and the subject (What would Peter say?). But in some cases, I have an impression that the rule does not necessarily applies. For example, I think I've already heard some people say What would be his role ? instead of the regular form What would his role be ?
Could someone tell me if both forms are regarded as correct ?
Both forms seem fine to me. I'd say they have a slightly different focus.

What would be his role? The focus is on the noun, 'role'. Typical answers might be 'a manager, a salesman, a negotiator'.

What would his role be ? The focus is on the verb, 'be'. Typical answers might be 'managing, selling, negotiating'.

Best wishes, Clive


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Hi Anon

Only What would his role be? is grammatical, i.e. the word order is right. However, I am not saying that What would be his role? should not be used. The decision is up to you.

Everything that passes for correct English usage today was at one stage regarded as inferior or ungrammatical. You would not understand a single sentence of Old English, yet there is an unbroken chain of language changes from those days until the present day. All these changes were 'ungrammatical' when they happened.

Cheers
CB
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Comments  
Inversion does not apply when questioning the subject.

What would his role be?> Expected answer: His role would be .....
What would be his role?> Expected answer: .... would be his role.

In the case of equatives the difference can be negligible. I sense a slight difference in tone between these two sentences, but I don't how to characterize it. The first formulation seems to me to be asking tentatively what his role is, as if the speaker had forgotten. The second formulation seems to me to be asking what duties would be given to him (if he were to be hired, for example), or something like that. These impressions may be far from universal, however, so it is a good idea to wait for others to respond to your question before deciding for yourself. Emotion: smile

CJ
 Cool Breeze's reply was promoted to an answer.
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