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Which one of these phrases sound more correct and why? What is the rule about asking 2 questions in the same sentence in English?

Could you please tell me when can I get my check from you?

Could you please tell me when I can get my check from you?

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  • Are you a student or preparing for an English exam?
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 11:14
  • I'm a student of English.
    – Kaique
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:35
  • Then you should be careful in reading some of the answers provided here. They may make you lose points on school exams.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:36
  • How would you have answered the question?
    – Kaique
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:37
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    Only your second example sentence would earn you points on exams.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 13:38

3 Answers 3

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  • Could you please tell me when can I get my check from you?
  • Could you please tell me when I can get my check from you?

Both are acceptable although the second is far more common and sounds more natural. Neither involves two questions as I see it. "when can I" does use the inversion common in question forms, but that just emphasizes that it is a question; there is no second question here. Both mean "when are you going to pay me?" but in a more polite form. There is no difference in meaning.

There are cases where multiple questions may be asked in the same sentence. For example:

  • Jack wasn't sure where he was going to go, or what he would do when he got there.
  • I'd like to know what you did with my luggage, and where you suggest that I sleep tonight?

In each case the questions could be recast into separate sentences. That is not true of the example asked about here.

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  • The first is actually a big no-no on standardized tests.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 4:33
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    @Apollyon Well, if those tests would mark that as poor English, learners who would be taking them should know that, but it only proves that the tests are too limited to truly measure good writing. Although I don't recall any such rule back when i took the SAT in the late 1970s, and did rather well, too. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 5:10
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    Which gives VOA no particular authority to say what correct English is. The argument from authority cuts no ice on this subject. Proscriptivism is highly outdated. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 5:31
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    @userr2684291 Note that a source quoted in the 1st linked article says "the use of inverted word order in indirect questions, as in 'She asked could she go to the movies', is becoming just as much a part of informal spoken American English as indirect questions without inverted word order" and "Northeast U.S. English" is said to permit it, as of 1975. Sounds pretty standard to me, and the article a classic case of outdated prescriptivism. Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 20:31
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    @DavidSiegel I have taken a note of that, but I would still defer to the judgment of an actual linguist (who in spite of these findings says what he says), than to someone who thinks what they just read is "outdated prescriptivism" (this isn't accurate at all: for starters, prescriptivists don't quote studies about language; and the article is quite recent). But I only quoted it as an example of a descriptivist who says that, suggesting that not everyone agrees with what I quoted previously (Huddleston et al. (descriptivists)) – that these examples are rare but attested in Standard English.
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 21:19
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(I'm asking someone who I did a job for when I would be able to get a check from them for payment of the job done. – Kaique)

Both of the following questions could be answered with a "Yes" or a "NO". Could you please tell me when can I get my check from you? Could you please tell me when I can get my check from you?

I suggest you delete the first two words of your first question. "Please tell me when I can get my check from you." Then it is no longer a question, it is a request.

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  • In actual usage, adding "Could you please tell me" simply makes the question more polite without changing the meaning in any way. Anyone answering with a simple "Yes" or "No" would be engaging in rude, smart-ass, obstructionism, somewhat like that in the old MS Helicopter joke: (pcreview.co.uk/threads/microsoft-helicopter-joke.3245996 ) Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 19:59
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In English, you would always say:

'Could you please tell me when I can get my check from you?'

What exactly you would mean is not clear though. Would you be asking your doctor for some kind of check?

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  • What isn't clear is whether asking two questions in the same sentence is acceptable grammatically, such as the example I gave where I change the structure of the sentence from 1 to 2 questions in the same sentence.
    – Kaique
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 23:51
  • I'm asking someone who I did a job for when I would be able to get a check from them for payment of the job done.
    – Kaique
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 23:57
  • Hi Alan! Americans spell the french word "cheque" as "check". Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 3:02
  • @Robyn Simpson 2 you are correct that UK and some other varieties of English spell the word as "cheque", but it is not really a French word. It came to Middle English from Latin via Norman. It originally refereed to the checkerboard pattern used in the King's Exchequer to help, in keeping accounts, a sort of physical spreadsheet. From that came the royal paying agent, the "Clerke of the Cheque". And from that, the drafts were known as cheques. Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 5:18
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    I would also wonder whether anyone has actually written a cheque since the last century - I don't believe I have had a cheque book for more than fifteen years, and it probably hadn't been used for five years before that. :-)
    – Alan
    Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 12:02

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