1. Look at your watch and tell me what time is it.
  2. Look at your watch and tell me what time it is.

Is the second variant correct?

2 Answers 2


Strictly speaking, only #2 is "correct".

You ask someone to tell you something = a noun phrase, as in the time [that] it is [now] is 10 o'clock. That's the standard / default English sequence subject + verb + object.

In English, we normally invert the subject + verb element when asking questions, as in What time is it? (but not in the statement / answer It's = It is 10 o'clock).

OP's example #1 is increasingly common among younger native speakers, so I wouldn't want to say it's "wrong". But historically it's long been associated with non-native speakers. So on the one hand you might want to use format #1 yourself - to appear more "with it", and in tune with those younger speakers. On the other hand, older or more pedantic people will tend to think you just don't know "proper" English. My advice is to stick with format #2 in your own constructions, but maybe it depends a bit on who you're talking to.

  • 4
    "What time is it?" is a question, so is it is "inverted" from standard it is. As in Question: How old is he?, Answer: He is 10. More definitively, in constructions involving tell as well as a wh- question word, Tell me who you are is "correct" (it's an imperative command, equivalent to the actual Question form Who are you?). And Tell me who are you is "badly-formed", but not uncommon today. The rule isn't all that complicated, and it would be better for you to apply it consistently even if not all native speakers always do. Mar 15, 2019 at 17:36
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    Unless you massage the punctuation to make number one a question: Look at your watch and tell me: What time is it?
    – Davo
    Mar 15, 2019 at 17:42
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    So "What time is it?" is correct as this is question, and "tell me what time it is" is correct as it's not a question but an imperative command. Have i got things right?
    – eefar
    Mar 15, 2019 at 17:50
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    @eefar: Well done, yes. You have it exactly right! Mar 15, 2019 at 17:51
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    "younger, poorly-educated native speakers". FTFY.
    – RonJohn
    Mar 15, 2019 at 21:44

I would like to simplify the issue as to why there must not be an inversion of questioning attached to a command or for that matter with any other sentence type expressing an assertion (statement), an emotion (exclamation) or a wish(optative). Sentences are meaningless if they become an odd assortment of heterogeneous emotions put together. In a sentence the main clause (s) carries the spirit and other subordinate clauses add to that spirit only. Your sentence may contain a bunch of statements, a plethora of commands or a fusillade of questions, but never all in one. That's why grammarians prescribe that barring your main sentence (s) others would be muted to statements or to phrases.

FumbleFingers has rightly mentioned that only No.(2) is correct where the question has been muted to a subordinate statement to elicit the desired answer of the command/ request. There are two commands, alright! It would be meaningless if you add a question or an optative or exclamatory sentence.

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