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I have some confusion about this; for example:

Where is the bank?

I don't know where the bank is.

I don't know how to be is used at the end of sentences.

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  • As an aside, those two sentences are fine as they are right now.
    – J.R.
    Nov 2 '13 at 1:09
  • And here I thought you wanted to know about the sentence, "I don't know where the bank is now, but I know where it used to be."
    – Jim
    Nov 2 '13 at 1:40
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Let's start with a basic sentence:

The bank is there.

We can turn this into a wh-question by replacing there with where:

The bank is where? (inappropriate in most circumstances)

This kind of question is acceptable in a few limited circumstances, but most wh-questions have two additional things done to them:

  1. wh-fronting. We move where to the front of the sentence:

    Where the bank is ____? (inappropriate in most circumstances)

    It leaves behind a gap, which I've marked with a blank (____). (The gap is usually not written.) The word where and the gap refer to the same thing. What's important is this: you can't add a complement after is because there's a gap there.

    "Where the bank is?" is only appropriate in a few limited circumstances, like if you're repeating something back to someone. It's usually incorrect. To fix it, we need to do one more thing:

  2. Subject-auxiliary inversion. The subject (the bank) and the auxiliary verb (is) switch places:

    Where is the bank ____?

    Subject-auxiliary inversion marks a sentence as a direct question. With both wh-fronting and subject-auxiliary inversion, we've created a complete question ("Where is the bank?").

However, if you want to use "where the bank is" as an indirect question, you don't switch the subject and auxiliary:

[ where the bank is ____ ]

This is a relative clause. It doesn't work as a direct question, which means it doesn't work as a sentence on its own. That's why I didn't capitalize where or put a period at the end. But it does work as an indirect question, as part of a larger declarative sentence:

I don't know [ where the bank is ____ ].

In this example, we've fronted where, but we did not invert the subject and auxiliary. That would be ungrammatical because it's not a direct question:

*I don't know [ where is the bank ____ ]. (ungrammatical)

(Technically, there are circumstances where it's possible to embed a direct question, particularly in speech. But I'm ignoring that here.)

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You use it the same way you do any other verb at the end of the sentence, or in any other location. The verb to be follows the same placement rules as any verb in English.

The normal order is subject-verb-object. When there is no object, the verb comes last in the sentence, as in your example.

I don't know where the bank is.

I don't know what Bob did.

I sang.

Fish swim.

The verb to be could be substituted for any of these other verbs, and still be grammatically correct, but substantially boring:

I don't know what Bob was.

I am.

Fish are.

Perhaps the reason you find to be at the end of a sentence to be odd, is that the verb to be is often a helping verb, and when it is, it is not found at the end of a sentence:

Bob was singing.

I am cooking.

Fish are swimming.

Or we use the to be verb as descriptive:

Bob was ill.

I am tall.

Fish are tasty!

So in summary: Use the verb to be at the end of a sentence any time it conveys the meaning you desire, and in exactly the same way you do with any other verb.

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