I'm confused whether to convert the structure of the clause when it starts with a question word within a complex sentence or not. Look at these examples, and tell me which one is FORMALLY accurate:

  • I did not know where did she go.


  • I did not know where she went.
  • "I didn't know where she went" is correct. "Where she went" is a subordinate interrogative clause (embedded question), so no inversion is required. The meaning is "I didn't know the answer to the question 'Where did she go?"'.
    – BillJ
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


1. Where did she go? (main clause interrogative)

2. I did not know [where she went]. (Subordinate interrogative clause)

When you say "within a clause", you’re referring to the subordinate interrogative clause in ex2. "where did she go", which I’ve bracketed. Such clauses are called interrogative complement clauses (or embedded questions), and they are introduced by one of the interrogative words “who”, “what”, “which”, “where” etc.

With main clause interrogatives like 1., the interrogative word usually occupies initial position, and if it is not the subject, it triggers subject-auxiliary inversion (note how auxiliary verb “did” and subject “she” have inverted).

In subordinate interrogative clauses like 2., on the other hand, the interrogative phrase is initial and normally there is no inversion.

So in your question, you're second example is the correct one.


I didn't know where she went

This is the right one, since this was a negative affirmation, not a negative question. In the first example, you are affirming that you didn't know where she went, therefore, "did she" is incorrect. Let's suppose someone told you this: She went out last night with her friends, and you repplied: I didn't know that, where did she go? In the first clause you are affirming that you didn't know it, and in the second clause you are asking where she went, therefore, you have two clauses; "I didn't know that" and "where did she go?" both clauses don't belong to the same statement, because one is affirmation and the other is a question, but in your sentence, both clauses belong to the same statement, because you are affirming that you didn't know where she went, this is an affirmation, both clauses are affirmative.

Here are others examples of different clauses and clauses that belong to the same statement:

I didn't know where he traveled to

I didn't know, where did he travel to?

I don't know where she will spend her vacations.

I don't know, where will she spend her vacations?

In the examples above you can realize that I affirmed something, and in the others you see that I affirm something, and ask for other directly referred to the same clause, and bear in mind that comma will always be placed after the negative clause, as you can see, in order to separate one clause from the other, and to indicate to the reader that a new clause is coming.

  • 1
    In "I didn't know where she went", the element "where she went" is an interrogative clause (embedded question) functioning as complement to the verb "know". Same construction applies to your other examples.
    – BillJ
    Dec 27, 2016 at 19:59
  • Yeah, they belong to the same clause, "I didn't know where he traveled to" it belongs to the same clause because he is affirming it, but in the others examples, I should have increased an "it" after know, it would shut the first clause, and the new one would come, which is the question: "where did she travel to?"
    – Davyd
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:04
  • "I didn't know where she went" isn't an interrogative clause, he was affirming that he didn't know where SHE went (IT), if he was going to ask where she went, that's how it is supposed to be: "I didn't know it, where did she go?"
    – Davyd
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:06
  • I didn't say it was. I said that the element "where she went" is an interrogative (embedded question).
    – BillJ
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:07
  • 2
    It was precisely what the OP meant. The OP was asking about subject inversion after a question word, and which of their 2 examples was correct. In the two examples given, the question word "where" introduces a subordinate interrogative clause, but subordinate interrogative clauses do not (normally) exhibit inversion. Thus only the OP's second example without inversion is correct. See the full answer I have now posted
    – BillJ
    Dec 28, 2016 at 15:20

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