I was wondering what is the grammar rule to include a question as a part of a sentence? Here are some examples:

Example 1:

Can you tell what am I missing? vs. Can you tell me what I am missing?

Example 2:

Tell me what am I missing? vs. Tell me what I am missing?

Example 3:

Do you know why he did this? vs. Do you know why did he this?

Example 4:

I don't know why he did this. vs. I don't know why did he this.


Well, if you're not quoting anything (by that I mean that you're not saying verbatim what somebody else has said), then the rule is that the word order for the second part of your statement remains normal. In other words, no inversion takes place. And that holds true at all times. It's a rule that you can't break. Otherwise, your sentences are going to sound ungrammatical. Therefore, here are the correct ways to form your questions:

Can you tell me what I am missing?

Do you know why he did this?

I don't know why he did this.

But as I said, the following is still grammatically possible:

Can you say "What am I missing"?

Notice the quotation marks—they're important. In this case, I'm simply asking you to repeat those words.

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  • Thank you. One related question: when we say "Tell me what I am missing" should we end it with question mark (?) or a full stop (.)? And why we say "Tell me what do you see?", i.e. there is an inversion here, right? – today Dec 21 '18 at 11:40
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    Yes, there should be a question mark at the end of the sentence. When you say tell me what I'm missing, that do in front of the sentence, even though not there, is implied. So, it's still a question. – Michael Rybkin Dec 21 '18 at 12:03
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    As for your second question, there should be no inversion: Tell me what you see (you're asking the other person to tell you what they are seeing). Unless you intend to say something like this: Tell me... What do you see? But that's actually two sentences. In general, there is no inversion in the second, third, etc. part of your sentence. – Michael Rybkin Dec 21 '18 at 12:05
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    There are some exceptions though. For example: The question I keep asking myself is how did I manage to do that? That's an example of a situation where a question is built right into a sentence and in order to show that it's a question, you keep as a question, not changing anything. – Michael Rybkin Dec 21 '18 at 12:13

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