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I know that we should use the normal word order in embedded questions, for ex. 'I don' t know what she did', and with 'be'-'I don' t know where she is', and with subject questions 'I don' t know who said it'.

  1. But what happens with subject questions using 'be'? For ex, if we want to use as an imbedded question this one: 'who is he?', 'what is this/it?', 'which one is he?'. Do we say 'I don' t know what this is/it is/which one he is'?. It sounds weird.

  2. In the subject questions the question word is the subject, but is this the case in questions with 'be'? Are they subject questions or not? How to identify the subject in 'who is she?' ( she is my friend'/'my friend is she', regardless how strange this sounds).

  3. Is there any difference in terms of finding the subject between 'who is he' and 'which one is he'. I've read something about using these structures in the future form, e. g. 'which one will it be' / 'which one will be it' to determine the subject. But does it work with 'who'?

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We say "I don’t know what this is" / "which one he is". Note that there is no subject-auxiliary inversion like there is in main clauses, cf "What is this?" / "Which one is he?" In both main and subordinate clauses, "what" and "one" are complements of "be".

Verb agreement often enables us to identify the subject in "be" clauses.

For example, in "Who is she", the subject is "she". We know this because we could replace "she" with "they", which would require that we replace "is" with "are", with the agreement showing that "she" is the subject.

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  • Thank you very much. So, it is correct to say 'I know who this is'.
    – user98919
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 15:01
  • Yes, that's fine. The subject is "this".
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 15:10
  • Thank you very much. So we can say 'I know who this is'. But what if we want to make 'who' or 'which' the subject? Can we say 'I know who is this', as in the example 'which one will be you?' Is this also correct? How to understand which word is the subject or the coplement in the original question, apart from given context? I just met 'what' as a subject in an embedded question in some youtube video about another grammar point.
    – user98919
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 15:32
  • Are there any cases when we can use the original main clause as a subject question and not invert it in an embedded one, like with normal subject question 'who did this? - I know who did this'?
    – user98919
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 15:32
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    In "I know who killed my cat", the subject is "who". No, you can't say *"I know who is this" because embedded questions don't have subject-auxiliary inversion like that. And nor do main clauses if the question word is subject ("Who did this?"). But in main clauses, if the question word is not the subject, it triggers subject-auxiliary inversion ("What are they?"), while the embedded question has, as usual, no inversion ("I know what they are").
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 16:02

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