5

Why is this sentence correct:

So then, are there more boys than girls in your class?

And why is this sentence incorrect:

So then, there are more boys than girls in your class?

I would say that both are potentially correct, yet I have been told by my lecturer that the 2nd one is actually an incorrect sentence.

Can someone come up with an argument for why the 2nd sentence is actually correct? Or explain to me why it is not?

4

I think this is what your instructor was driving at: The second sentence can be written with a period and spoken a statement. Formally, to make it a question, the declarative “there are” should be reversed to form the interrogative “are there.”

However, as others have indicated in comments and answers, verbal tones can also be used to form a declarative question. Wikipedia explains it like this:

Intonation patterns characteristic of questions often involve a raised pitch near the end of the sentence. In English this occurs especially for yes–no questions; it may also be used for sentences that do not have the grammatical form of questions, but are nonetheless intended to elicit information (declarative questions), as in "You're not using this?”

and also says:

A question which has the same form (except for intonation) as a declarative sentence is called a declarative question.

In short, your second sentence is fine as a declarative question. However, if you were working on an exercise that was designed to help you correctly use inversion (not intonation) to form a question, I can see why your instructor might have said your question was “incorrect.”

1

There is nothing wrong with the second example, and a native speaker would be just as likely to use it as the first example.

When used in spoken English, a rising tone at the end of the sentence would indicate the statement is meant as a question.

Why your instructor thinks it isn't correct, I have no idea. Perhaps they only want to introduce simpler constructions at this stage in your English education.

  • 1
    @ELP Following on The Photon's answer, while the phrasing of the first example means that it has to be a question, the second might also be written as a statement, apart from the question mark at the end. Your instructor might regard the question mark as erroneous in this context, disregarding the implication explained in the answer. – Ronald Sole Mar 23 '18 at 8:21

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