I have given my view why I think each of them may be correct.

1) Why is the young Joe right handed but the old Joe left handed?

In example 1, I think there is no need to add "is" two times ie."young Joe is right handed but the old Joe is left handed?" and that is why a single "is" would suffice.

2) Why is the young Joe right handed but the old Joe is left handed?

Here I have taken only the first "is" ie from "..young Joe is right handed..." to make the question. So the second "is" should be retained in its proper place.

3) Why is it that the young Joe is right handed but the old Joe left handed?

I think this question is okay, but need to ascertain it.

4) Why is young Joe is right handed but the old Joe is left handed?

I have retained both "is"; just added an extra "is" to make a question.

Now I am confused on the correctness of these constructions. These constructions just flowed through my head, but a long divorce with Grammar books made me feel doubt regarding them. Please elaborate which of the above is correct and which is not?

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    Please add some comments before down-vote so that I can improve. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 6:50
  • See my large answer to your other question tomorrow, when I have finished the "phrase substitution" section, and it will answer many of your questions. – temporary_user_name Feb 8 '13 at 6:59
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    @Mistu4u - A suggestion. Please try to add your own observations in your question about the matter in hand rather than bluntly ask the question. It helps in increasing the quality of both the question and the subsequent answers manifold. For ex - in this question, it would have been helpful if you had pointed out the specific points of confusion and may be given your own viewpoints about the matter. – Mohit Feb 8 '13 at 13:30
  • @Mohit, Thanks for your valuable feedback. I would from next time surely do that. Until now, I could not understand why is this question getting TL votes, but perhaps your comment is making sense here. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 13:33
  • @Mohit, Edited the question. You can have a look now. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 13:45

Because you are talking about people, you should start the name 'joe' with an upper case letter. I would also shy away from having a 'the' in front of young or old. Young Joe (or old Joe) works as an identifier and doesn't carry an inference of turning people into things. Apart from that:

1) is fine when it is changed as above to:

Why is (the) young Joe right handed but (the) old Joe left handed?

You're correct in saying you don't really need an extra is between 'old Joe' and 'left handed'. It's not wrong, but it's unnecessary. Hence

2) isn't incorrect, but you don't need the italicised is and it makes it sound a bit odd

Why is (the) young Joe right handed but (the) old Joe is left handed?

3) in contradiction of 2), I would add the second 'is' to this one. Because of the addition of is it that, you have set up the alternate clauses differently.

Why is it that young Joe is right handed but old Joe is left handed?

4) is wrong. the 'Why is young Joe is ..' is not grammatically correct. The added is makes it make no sense.

  • I used the to differentiate this particular Joe from other Joes. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 6:54
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    I understand, but it's still not done for people. Granted it's probably more to do with sensitivity than strictly correct English, but you shouldn't use 'the' to identify people. – mcalex Feb 8 '13 at 7:04
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    mcalex: I think you've dished out some good advice, but I'm not sure I agree with your point about eliminating the the. I might use a the in this context, although I'd probably change it to, "Why is the older Joe right-handed, but the younger Joe left-handed?" in the same way I might say "Why is the older brother right-handed, but the younger brother left-handed?" That said, using the with a person's name can be risky, but it's not unheard of, especially with an adjective between the and the name, as in: the great Joe DiMaggio, the controversial Madonna, the legendary Pelé, etc. – J.R. Feb 8 '13 at 10:15
  • @J.R. Wow. I agree with everything you say, yet I still think there is an issue (more in the OP context than any of your examples). I'll tone down that point in the answer a tad – mcalex Feb 8 '13 at 11:03
  • I have added some of my viewpoints as to show why I think each of them is okay. You might consider editing the answer to suit the question at best. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 13:44

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