Compare the following pair of sentences:

What Chinese Tariffs Targeting American Crops Will Mean For Farmers

What will Chinese tariffs targeting American crops mean for farmers?

Why does the former conveys an explanatory sense, as it is normally used as a title in articles to elaborate on the topic, while the latter is interrogative? Please explain in grammatical terms.

1 Answer 1


The questions with pronouns (what, which...) take a verb immediately after it to form a question.

What will he charge for his services?

This sentence without a question mark will be considered incorrect.

On the other hand, if the sentence is declarative, you don't write verb after 'what.'

I don't know what he will charge for his services NOT I don't know what will he charge for his services.

As far as titles are concerned, they are called headlinese, and are written by taking some liberty in grammar rules.

  • The first sentence mentioned in my question doesn't seem to be declarative though. I think it is rather a shortened statement that needs further modification of additional clauses to form an independent one, if you see what I mean.
    – skygate
    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:43
  • For example, What Chinese tariffs targeting American crops will mean for farmers is depressing.
    – skygate
    Apr 3, 2018 at 9:56
  • 2
    @skygate - You are correct that it's not a complete sentence. It would need a main verb to be a complete sentence. But headlines in English are often not written in complete sentences: look up the word headlinese for a description of the grammar used there.
    – stangdon
    Apr 3, 2018 at 11:06

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