Let's say my friend asks us:

Which one of you want coffee?

Now if I were to narrate it, I would say:

My friend asked me which one of us wanted coffee.

I want to know why the general practice of subject auxiliary inversion which we do while narrating other type of questions wouldn't be followed here? And isn't it must to do so?

  • You asked roughly the same question 4 hours ago.
    – BillJ
    May 7, 2019 at 12:12
  • Neither main clause interrogatives with a question word as subject, nor subordinate interrogatives have subject-auxiliary inversion.
    – BillJ
    May 7, 2019 at 12:22
  • 3
    It must be Which one of you wants coffee?, because one already implies that the speaker expects only a single "unknown subject", so the verb form should be singular. Alternatively, Which of you want coffee? allows for multiple / plural subjects. But we'd usually just ask Who wants coffee? anyway. May 7, 2019 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


When the question is in a subordinate clause, inversion is not performed. An indirect question is normally in a subordinate clause. This Wikipedia article says:

Inversion does not occur, however, when the interrogative word is the subject or is contained in the subject. In this case the subject remains before the verb ... Inversion also does not normally occur in indirect questions, where the question is no longer in the main clause, due to the penthouse principle. For example:

  • a. "What did Sam eat?", Cathy wonders. - Inversion in a direct question
  • b. *Cathy wonders what did Sam eat. - Incorrect; inversion should not be used in an indirect question
  • c. Cathy wonders what Sam ate. - Correct; indirect question formed without inversion

The same article describes other cases of inversion.

By the way, one should say "isn't it required" not "isn't it must".

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