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Hi there,

I came across this question

It is grammatically correct to ask:

'Did I [you, he/she/it/we/tyou/they] go to the park yesterday?'

but:

I find my self to prefer 'Who went to the park yesterday?' over 'Who did go to the park yesterday?'

Given that I am not mistaken and 'Who did go to the park yesterday?' is grammatically incorrect or less preferable: Why is that?

My first thought was this:
The did-construction (did plus pronoun) indicates a question.
'Who' is an interrogative term, so it by itself indicates that the sentence at hand is a question and that's why the did-construction is not necessary.

Objection:
As far as I can see, all other interrogative words take the did-construction, e.g.:

When did I go to the park?
Where did you sleep tonight?
Why did they do this?
What did we do in the park?

etc...

Modification:
Whereas 'who' is an interrogative term in the subjective case, 'why', 'when', 'where', etc., although being interrogative particles, do not take any case. Rather, they specify what kind of question it is, but do not by themselves indicate that the sentence at hand is a question. Hence, the did-construction is still necessary...

But even if that is true, why does it make a difference whether or not the interrogative term takes the subjective case?

Am I barking up the wrong tree here?

This is fun, does anyone have an answer?

Cheers,
Raja
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Raja,

May I suggest the following explanation of interrogatives, which I think is simpler, believe it or not.

All questions have underlying statements. But some part of the statement is unknown. That's what makes it a question. The unknown part is called a gap. Note the gaps in the statement below, and how each creates a question. I have deliberately put (did) in each case, because we need it for the transformations later.

Paul (did) put the scissors on the table this morning. [Statement form.]

Paul (did) put the scissors on the table _____ (When?)

Paul (did) put the scissors ______ this morning? (Where?)
Paul (did) put _______ on the table this morning? (What?)
______ (did) put the scissors on the table this morning. (Who?)
Paul (did) put the scissors on the table this morning? (Yes? / No?)

_______________________________________

A question form is actually a transformation of a statement with a gap. Here are the steps of the transformation:

1. The question word most appropriate for the gap (who, what, where, etc.) is moved to the beginning. (Or it may already be at the beginning, of course.)
2. If the question word was not already at the beginning, invert subject and verb. [Paul did becomes did Paul]. Otherwise, for cases where the question word was already at the beginning, do not invert.

3. If a form of do remains in front of another verb, combine them. (do go > go; did go > went, does go > goes, etc.)

In short:
1. Front the question word.
2. Invert if the gap was not at the beginning.

3. Combine do with the next verb where necessary.

_________________________________________

Examples:
A. Paul did put _____ on the table this morning?

1. What Paul did put on the table this morning?
2. What did Paul put on the table this morning?
3. --- [same] ---

B. ____ did put the scissors on the table this morning?

1. Who did put the scissors on the table this morning?
2. --- [same] ---
3. Who put the scissors on the table this morning?

C. Henry did go _____ this morning?

1. Where Henry did go this morning?
2. Where did Henry go this morning?
3. --- [same] ---

D. ___ did go to the bank this morning?

1. Who did go to the bank this morning?
2. --- [same] ---
3. Who went to the bank this morning?

E. Henry did go to the bank this morning? (Yes / No)

1. --- [same] --- [No question word.]
2. Did Henry go to the bank this morning?
3. --- [same] ---

CJ

P.S. If there is another auxiliary verb like a form of be or have already present (or a modal verb), you won't need a form of do.

Henry has gone _____ this morning?

1. Where Henry has gone this morning?
2. Where has Henry gone this morning?
3. --- [same] --- [There is no form of do.]

Henry is going to the bank ___when___?

1. When Henry is going to the bank?
2. When is Henry going to the bank?
3. --- [same] --- [There is no form of do.]
1 2
Comments  
That's a lot of stuff. I haven't digested it all.

One observation: "Who" and "what" are pronouns and can serve as subjects. Therefore, it's possible to invert to question order without involving the "do."

I can't ask, "Where went you?" "When slept you?" "Why stopped you?" (Unless it's a poem.)

But I can ask, "Who spoke?" "What happened?"

<< Objection:
As far as I can see, all other interrogative words take the did-construction, e.g.: >>

Who did this dastardly deed?? Hmmm, no "you."

Who told you I was married?? Hmmm, no "did."

The problem now is that "who" is subjective. If we could substitute the objective version, "whom," we'd have it made.

Whom did you ask??
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Hello, Raja,

let me highlight the main point in your post. You essentially ask about questions beginning with wh-words (that's why they are termed wh-questions). To form them correctly, you need to be aware that they can be subdivided into 1 - those asking for the subject of a sentence, and 2 - those asking about any part of the sentence excpet the subject.

eg

Somebody went to the park yesterday. - Who went to the park yesterday? - type 1, the target of the question is the subject somebody. To form a question, simply substitute the subject with the wh-word.

I went to the park yesterday. - When did you go to the park? - type 2, the target of the question is yesterday. To form a question, put the wh-word at the beginning of the sentence and introduce a helping verb (if there is no one).
AnonymousMy first thought was this: etc, ...

It is better not to generalise on such matters, as you may find yourself utterly confused.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
Thanks, Avangi and Gleb!

'Who' and 'what', as interrogative pronouns, can serve as subjects, I agree. That's what I meant when I said that they take the subjective case (other than 'when', 'where', etc., those only seem to specify the kind of question at hand). Or, as Gleb has put it, in using an interrogative pronoun you ask for the subject of the action.

Of course, 'who(m)' can serve as object, too, and then the 'do'-construction is possible:

"Whom did you see yesterday?"

Hence, that the 'do'-construction in

"Who went to the park?"

is not possible or at least less preferable (which of the two is it in your opinion?) in

"Who went to the park?"

seems, indeed, to have something to do with the fact that 'who', in this case, serves as a subject or, to put it differently, is an interrogative pronoun.
------------------------

So far, so good! But why is that? I can simply remember that as an odd fact about English Grammar, but I am sure that there is some reason.
------------------------
My hypothesis so far was:
'Who' and 'what' - as interrogative pronouns - do already, by themselves, indicate that the sentence at hand is a question. When no interrogative pronoun is involved, what you do to indicate a question is simply to invert to question order and use the 'do'-construction (or, alternatively, alter the intonation).
As it does, grammatically, not make much sense to indicate twice that the sentence at hand is a question, whenever a 'who' or a 'what' is involved, the 'do'-construction is unneccessary, hence:

"Who went to the park" (question indicated by 'who')

not

"Who did go to the park?" (question superfluously indicated twice, by 'who' and by 'do'-construction)

But now a complication arises:
'Where' 'When', 'Why', etc. are interrogative particles as well, so their occurrence ought to be taken to indicate that the sentence at hand is a question.

Yet, now, in:

"Where did you sleep last night?"

it seems to be indicated twice that the sentence at hand is a question, namely by 'where' and by the 'do'-construction. And that seems to be superfluous, a grammatically unfavorable consequence.

A Solution?:
Again, I suggested earlier that those particles rather specify the kind of question involved, not that the sentence at hand is a question. In that sense, those interrogative particles are secondary specification devices. If that is true, then the aforementioned unfavorable consequence can be avoided, for we can now say that the 'where' in

"Where did you sleep last night"

does not indicate a question, this job is rather done by the 'do'-construction. The 'where' rather specifies the kind of question as being a question pertaining to where the action that is asked about is (or, in this case, was) located.

In short:
We have, in English Grammar, several distinct options to indicate a question.
Given that it is unfavorable, because superfluous, to have that information conveyed twice, those ways are mutually exclusive. The different options are

a) use an interrogative pronoun and do not invert to question order
b) alter intonation and do not invert to question order
c) invert to question order, use the do-construction, and add, if necessary, a further interrogative particle to further specify the kind of question

Phew, I don't know whether or not that's right, but at least it makes sense to me!
Are there counterexamples? Comments? Dissent?

Of course, on this account, the question as to what makes the interrogative pronoun so special that it, other than the other wh-words, indicates a question already by itself, is still not answered. If you have any thoughts about that, please feel free to share them!

Cheers,
Raja
Thanks for joining us, Raja. Welcome to English Forums! [<:o)]

My favorite part of you latest post begins, "In short." I have a vacation coming up shortly, and I'll take it with me.

You seem to know more than you originally let on. We'll have to shift gears. Emotion: smile

Best wishes, - A.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

Raja, let me make a number of essential clarifications:

1. 'Hence, that the 'do'-construction in

"Who went to the park?"

is not possible or at least less preferable (which of the two is it in your opinion?) in

"Who went to the park?"' - under neutral circumstances, the do-support would be impossible, but, in some exceptional cases, we may resort to using it in a context like:

Tom, Dick, and Harry intended to go to the park. - Yes, but who DID go to the park?

in which case 'did' should carry the logical stress of the sentence (this is referred to as 'emphatic do').

2. 'who', in this case, serves as a subject or, to put it differently, is an interrogative pronoun.' - Willy-nilly, you are trying to equalise the concept of a word class (an interrogative pronoun) and of a clause element ( a subject), which is potentially misleading and virtually impracticable.

'Who' and 'what' - as interrogative pronouns - do already, by themselves, indicate that the sentence at hand is a question. ' - Just to be on the safe side: wh-words you mention are not limited to interrogative pronouns, correspondingly, their functions are not restricted to eliciting a question. Besides their occurrence in interrogative clauses, they also occur in relative constructions and in the capacity of complementizers.

'

When no interrogative pronoun is involved, what you do to indicate a question is simply to invert to question order and use the 'do'-construction (or, alternatively, alter the intonation). ' - You need to recognise that do is not the only operator, so the list is not at all exhaustive.

3. 'As it does, grammatically, not make much sense to indicate twice that the sentence at hand is a question, whenever a 'who' or a 'what' is involved, the 'do'-construction is unneccessary [sic], hence:

"Who went to the park" (question indicated by 'who')

not

"Who did go to the park?" (question superfluously indicated twice, by 'who' and by 'do'-construction)' -

As was mentioned above, it makes sense, both grammatically and pragmatically, to reinforce the question by using grammatical and suprasegmenal devices.

4. ''Where' 'When', 'Why', etc. are interrogative particles as well, so their occurrence ought to be taken to indicate that the sentence at hand is a question. ' -

What their occurrence indicates is that several possibilities lie ahead of us:

(a) Interrogative sentence: Where is it?

(b) Nominal clause: Where it is does not trouble me much.

(c) Relative clause: a small place where everyone knows everyone else

...

Since we have found out that the occurrence of a wh-word is not an inalienable feature of interrogation, it may stand to reason to suggest that your claim about 'a grammatically unfavourable consequence' does not have a leg to stand on, unfortunally.

'It seems to be indicated twice that the sentence at hand is a question' - in this case we deal with a wh-word (a signal of the missing element, and not a rock-ribbed indication of interrogation, as you suggest) as well as a subject-operator inversion which completes the interrogation - no pleonasm, as you can see, but only a set of steps to undertake for proper speech organisation.

5. 'Again, I suggested earlier that those particles rather specify the kind of question involved, not that the sentence at hand is a question. ' -

A self-contradicting statement, my friend. Indicating the kind of question is a further step after identifying a structure as a question; therefore, a syllogism is manifest in your judgement. Another crucial remark: a wh-element does not in itself specify the kind of question, it refers to a missing element of an utterance, as was stated before.

6. 'The different options are

a) use an interrogative pronoun and do not invert to question order

b) alter intonation and do not invert to question order

c) invert to question order, use the do-construction, and add, if necessary, a further interrogative particle to further specify the kind of question'

- The first option cannot be seen as truly pertaining to the list, for it is not limited to interrogatives (see above) and, besides, is is rather an exception to the rule than its formulation. I wish to remind you again, my friend, that a do-construction (or do-support, as it is technically called) is far from being the only possibility in the matter we are discussing, so the scope should be significantly broadened. The rest of your post restates your original ideas, so I hope that you will re-evaluate them from the viewpoint of systematic approach to language phenomena. Finally, your choice of terms is rather puzzling, eg, it is illogical to mention 'interrogative particles' that in fact are used as substitutes for adverbs in the original statement. For instance,

I'm leaving in a moment. - When are you leaving?

It is as easy as ABC to recognise the systemic correspondence between in a moment and when, which asks for a radical correction of your terminology.

That is all for now, and thank you for the question.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
Hello Gleb,

Thank you, again, for your answer!

Let me say from the outset, that I am neither a native speaker, nor an expert in linguistics, but nonetheless interested, so please forgive me that I am not as well-versed as far as technical terms are concerned as you seem to be. Thus, I very much appreciate your remarks and corrections with regard to my admittedly willy-nilly and somewhat idiosyncratic choice of terms as well as the clarifications to which I now wish to turn.

ad 1) I did, in fact, think of cases where the emphatic do is used, but I chose not to mention them, for as this term already indicates, it didn't seem relevant for my question, as the 'do' in such cases obviously has a different function than to indicate a question.

ad 2) Your point is well-taken, I was actually unhappy with that phrase and thought about re-editing it, thought that I might rather talk about an interrogative subjective pronoun. But your comment - don't try to identify words classes with clause element - was immediately convincing.
I borrowed the term 'wh-word' from your post, and your caveat is, of course, in order.
You mentioned that 'do' is not the only operator and I wouldn't want to disagree with you on that.

ad 3 and ad 4) I already agreed on the point you made with regard to the 'emphatic do'. I was and still am, however, exclusively puzzled as to what different kinds of features are used in order to make an utterance a question and how it might be explained that there are those different features. You are surely right to point to the fact that wh-words do occur in relative and nominal clauses, too. I don't want to argue with that, but I was interested in questions, and those, if I am not mistaken, differ syntactically from relative clauses and from nominal clauses in that in them no subject-operator-inversion takes place. So subject-operator-inversion seems to be at least one syntactic marker of questionhood. I was interested in why it is that there are those other sentences, which are questions and which do neither involve alteration of intonation nor subject-operator-inversion, but which do involve interrogative pronouns.

At any rate, I, too, suggested that words like 'why', 'when', 'where', etc. do not play the role of indicating a question. And it seems to me that you mistook me for actually asserting what was only forwarded as a conceivable objection, i.e. when I said that 'why', 'where', 'when', etc. ought to be taken to indicate a question, I was not forwarding my own claim. On the contrary, I was voicing what I took to be a possible objection to what I had claimed earlier, an objection, however, which rested on a mistaken assimilation of the function of wh-words like 'who' and 'what' - interrogative pronouns - with other wh-words like 'why', 'where' and 'when'.
And I take it that you agree that if one were to stick with such an assimilation, then that would indeed have the grammatically unfavorable consequence I was pointing to. So I fancied that the latter terms ('why', 'where' and 'when') play a different role than the former ('who', 'what'), for instance that the latter terms are not indicative of questions. That is why I called them (probably in a very idiosyncratic and provisionary fashion) particles that function as 'secondary specification devices'. That is, they do not indicate that the sentence at hand is a question (that job has do be done by other means), but in case that it is a question (as indicated by, say, subject-operator inversion), they indicate what kind of question it is, namely, what particular aspect it is the question is directed at. In that sense, I am very happy when you say that those words ('why', 'where' and 'when') signal the missing element and I do, of course, not object against the claim that they do substitute adverbial expressions. I do not see, however, what you mean when you (in 5.) say that my statement which you quoted is self-contradictory.

-------------

Again, I am not an expert and not a native, but let me thank you again for your comments, for you provided me with exactly the kind of answer I was looking for, one that is helpful with regard to avoiding terminological and other pitfalls.

-------------

Yet, my question still stands and I can now - after your clarifications - reframe it somewhat differently:

Why do we need this particular option of framing questions with interrogative pronouns and without subject-operator inversion? You said that this option is really an exception to the rule rather than its formulation. I don't believe in exceptions. I rather think (perhaps mistakenly) that whatever grammatical feature superficially looks like an exception really makes, on some level, perfect sense.

Maybe the case is simpler than I thought: We just cannot have subject-operator inversion when it is the subject which is the missing element! For, after all,

'Who did-[someone] go to the park' .... just doesn't seem to work, we just don't know what to fill in into the [someone]-slot. ;-)

So instead of using subject-operator inversion, in cases where it is the subject of the action, we ask about, we have to use intonation to indicate a question and then add the signal for the missing element, i.e. the pronoun 'who'. But if this is correct, then that would mean, that, in fact, the pronoun does not indicate that something is a question after all. Rather, that a given sentence is a question is indicated by either subject-operator inversion or, in case this is not possible, because the subject is unknown, by intonation. And the pronoun 'who' or 'what' just functions - exactly as 'where', why' or 'when' - as the signal for the missing element.

Again, I am not an expert, but I am happy and grateful for any further comments! Maybe, for you guys, this is all way too obvious, but for me it was not and hence I am grateful for your patience! ;-)

Cheers
Raja
 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
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CalifJim,

Thank you for your very helpful answer!

It provides a nice and very useful recipe for forming a question which rests on a gappy statement! And it definitely helped me a lot in further clarifying my question and to reframe it in your terms!

Problems unsolved:

I am not sure as to how your account answers the questions I was asking. If you have read the thread, as I suppose you have, you will have noticed that I was initially puzzled by the fact that in cases where no particular emphasis is being expressed, we say

"Who went to the park?"

rather than

"Who did go to the park?"

In thinking about it, with the help of Avangi and Gleb, I also wondered about what device it is that marks something as a question, suggesting that it is either intonation or inversion.

You didn't say anything with regard to this second question, but according to the recipe you provided, the second phrase (i.e. "Who did go to the park?") is - at least under normal, non-emphatic circumstances - ungrammatical (which does not, by itself, explain why that is so). Note, that you state the rule somewhat differently, as you mention what I take to be the first step only in prose rather than in the statement of the rule itself. But it seems fair to include that step in the statement of the rule itself as you explicitly presuppose it:

Reconstruction of your suggestion:

Take the underlying gappy statement and

1) If the verb does not already contain an auxiliary verb as a part, then transform it such that it does contain the appropriately inflected form of 'do' plus the infinitive of the verb. Proceed to 2).

2) Front, if necessary, the appropriate word signaling the gap.
3) Unless the gap is at the position of the subject of the underlying statement, invert subject and auxiliary verb.
4) In case you now get a sentence in which a form of 'do' stands in front of the main verb, undo 1).

F.e.
----- went to the park. (underlying gappy statement)
1) ----- did go to the park?

2) Who did go to the park?

3) -same-
4) Who went to the park?

Three comments:
1) The crucial steps in the rule you suggested which bring about the fact I was initially puzzled about, are steps 3 and 4. Yet, step 3 just involves pointing to an exception, namely an exception just in case the gap is at the position of subject of the underlying statement. Pointing to an exception, however, does not explain why that exception is necessary, so the puzzle remains.

2) Of course, not all questions rest on a gappy underlying statement. Sometimes we want to ask whether or not the propositional content expressed in the statement as such is true (or part of it).
3) It would be nice to have an account that also provides an answer as to what it is that marks something as a question as such. Apparently, other than using inversion we can also use intonation to mark something as a question. As turns out, I think that it is not just some other device to indicate a question, but rather the most general one, whereas inversion is only a secondary device, which only in some cases seems to be necessary.

My suggestion:

In order to broaden the account such as to both give an explanation for the puzzle mentioned above and referred to in (a) and accomodate questions about the truth of the propositional content of the statement at hand (or about a particular part of it) (b) as well as such questions formed by simply altering the intonation (c), let my put forward the following suggestion, which is, as an additional merit, even simpler than the one you suggested (at least in the sense that it does involve one step less):

Take the underlying statement and

1)
if there is a gap which is not at the position of the subject, front the appropriate word signaling the gap and proceed to 2),
if the gap is at the position of the subject, front the appropriate word signaling the gap, alter the intonation such as to mark the sentence as a question, and be done,
if there is no gap at all, either alter the intonation, thereby mark the sentence as a question and be done or, alternatively, proceed to 2).

2) In case the verb does not already contain a form of an auxiliary verb as a part, transform it such that it does contain the appropriately inflected form of 'do' plus the infinitive of the verb and proceed to 3).
3) Invert subject and auxiliary verb and alter intonation such as to mark the sentence as a question.

Examples:
underlying statement: Peter went to the park.

A) Question: Really?

1) -same-
In case you decide to just alter the intonation, you're already done. Alternatively:

2) Peter did go to the Park?

3) Did Peter go to the park?

P.S.: In both cases you may wish to alter the intonation accordingly such as to stress 'to the park', or 'Peter' or 'go', thereby opening up different contrast classes such as [to the park vs. into the garden vs. into the house, etc...], [Peter vs. Mary vs. John, etc...] or [go vs. run vs. hurry, etc...].

B) Question: Who?

1) Who went to the park?

C) Question: Where?
1) Where Peter went?
2) Where Peter did go?
3) Where did Peter go?

Comments:
1) Note that what I took to be the fourth step of your rule (i.e. the third part of it according to your original post) does not figure at all in my suggested rule. I hope that my reconstruction brought out that it is basically undoing the first step, which in your original post is not part of the official rule, though mentioned in prose, namely: If the verb does not already contain an inflected auxiliary verb as a part, transform the verb such that it does contain the appropriately inflected form of 'do' plus the infinitive of the verb. This rule figures as the second rule in my account. Are there still cases that make it necessary to undo that step, cases i.e. that my suggested rule does not cover?

2) I had been assuming that asking what the subject of the underlying statement at hand is, does not, for it cannot, involve subject-operator inversion (as the subject is unknown, so that there is nothing to invert). Thinking about the rule I have suggested I now think that the most general feature that marks something as a question is simply altering the intonation. It is what suffices to transform a non-gappy sentence into a question.
3) The second-easiest question form is the one where the gap is at the position of the subject. Basically, the only thing to do is to front the word signaling the missing subject and to alter the intonation. In this respect, my account differs from yours as in your account it is only after undoing the prior (and, as it turns out in such cases, unnecessary) transformation of a verb, f.i. went>did go in step 1) and did go>went, that the question is formed.

4) Subject-operator inversion is a device which seems to be necessary only in some cases, namely if the underlying statement is a gappy statement where the gap is not at the position of the subject. It can (but need not) be used if the statement is a non-gappy statement. I suppose that subject-operator inversion came to be necessary (or, more cautiously, is helpful) in order to distinguish questions with underlying gappy statements at non-subject positions more clearly from relative and nominal clauses, but that is just a guess...

Comments? Objections? Agreement?

Cheers,
Raja
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