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These are questions and with questions you put the verb first and then the pronoun.

For example:

Affirmative : You can.

Question: Can you?

But sometimes when speaking I hear people not applying this rule.

Maybe it's correct in speech but incorrect in writing?!

Tell me what I should do?

Tell me what should I do?

Do you know what you can do to...

Do you know what can you do to...

marked as duplicate by SamBC, Hellion, Varun Nair, virolino, ColleenV Apr 13 at 13:04

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • See a related question and a detailed answer here. – laugh Mar 23 at 14:40
  • Yes, that answer is the answer needed here. So this is a duplicate. – Lambie Mar 23 at 14:45

As with the difference between direct quotes and indirect quotes, there is little difference in meaning between these two structures. The difference is in phrasing and nuance. The first structure is a straightforward question. The second structure is more like a quote, as if you asked someone that question directly.

Imagine these written as direct quotes:

Tell me what I should do?
Tell me, "What should I do?"

Do you know what you can do to fix the situation?
Do you know, "What can you do to fix the situation?"

Tell me where he goes on Tuesday evenings?
Tell me, "Where does he go on Tuesday evenings?"

These kind of inversions are common in English, and are often slightly more formal or literary (or at least affected). They therefore can be more dramatic in context.

"It's not the best solution," he sighed, "but tell me what else can we do in times such as these?"

Here the inversion is used as a rhetorical device to suggest the person speaking isn't really looking for an answer. He's just expressing his frustration. The other phrasing would better indicate that he wants advice:

"It's not the best solution," he sighed, "but tell me what else we can do in times such as these?"

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