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  1. I want to know where he is.
  2. I want to know where is he.
  1. I want to know where the hell are we.
  2. I want to know where the hell we are.

All these sentences are questions, but phrased as a sentence. In question, I know, in a questioning statement, "Where is he?" is correct, and "Where he is?" is not correct. But I'm not sure in the case of a statement. Is there a rule for this? Both statements are valid?

May be only one statement is valid in writing English, but both are valid in casual spoken English?

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When asking any question indirectly, you must use sentence order and not question order. So in the first example option 1 is correct, and in the second, option 2 is correct. This applies to both speaking and writing. (It is possible, however, in writing, perhaps in an interview write-up to do something like this: "He asked the President, "Where the hell are we?")

To make it easier to understand, think about an indirect question. That is, 2 questions combined into one.

Do you know?

Plus

Where is the bank?

When we combine the two, we will end up with one question (Do you know?) and the second will become "the details" which we can't phrase in question order.

Do you know where the bank is?

Question | Details

  • but I see people speak both ways. – T2E Mar 4 '14 at 15:02
  • It's certainly better to follow my rule. In Britain at least, it would be wrong to use question order twice. – JMB Mar 4 '14 at 15:11
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    @T2E I think those people simply air-quote the question, which should be reflected in their intonations. In writing, you can actually quote the question, like this example, I want to know, "where is he?" – Damkerng T. Mar 4 '14 at 19:08
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"I want to know where he is." is a complex sentence with noun clause

  • I = subject;
  • want = transitive verb;
  • to know = object;
  • where he is = object complement / noun clause;

= independent clause / complex sentence

Note: "I want to know where is he." is a wrong construction.

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I have just copy pasted the definition from the book "Oxford Guide to English Grammar" for your reference. I hope it will help you.

Indirect questions

We can ask a question indirectly by putting it into a sub clause beginning with a question word or with if/whether. This makes the question sound less abrupt, more tentative.

We need to know what the rules are.

Can I ask you how much you're getting paid for the job?

Could you tell me where Queen Street is, please?

I'm trying to find out who owns this building.

Do you know when the train gets in?

I was wondering if/whether you could give me a lift.

There is no inversion of the subject and auxiliary in the sub clause.

NOT *We need to know what are the rules. (Incorrect)

For question word + to-infinitive,
Could you tell me how to get there?

NOTE If the main clause is a statement (We need to know), then there is no question mark.

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