For example: I don't know what's wrong [not what wrong is]

Had there been a noun I'd have to change the structure.

I don't know what your problem is.

Am I right? I'm fairly certain I am

  • I mean I was certain the second one was right but I was skeptical about the first one. Like in case of a noun/verb it is: I don't know what your problem is/I wonder why he left his job. But in case of adjective it's always [is (y)] both in affirmative and interrogative. For example: Me: What's wrong? Friend: I don't know what's wrong... Why is it so? Nov 10 '19 at 17:24
  • 2
    But you haven't changed the structure. In neither of your examples is there subject-auxiliary inversion. In the first, "what" is the subject and it occurs before the verb as expected. In the second the subject is "your problem" and again it occurs before the verb.
    – BillJ
    Nov 10 '19 at 18:34

Both sentences are correct!

I don't know what's wrong.

I don't know what your problem is.

But these are not very good examples of the general rule I think you are discovering when you say:

I just noticed that the location of be(is am are was were, etc) is not changed when there's an adjective, even in affirmative sentences.

The general rule is that verbs which are stative can take adjectives after the verb, and those adjectives refer to the previously stated subject. These verbs are sometimes called "linking" or "being" verbs, and generally describe the state of the subject (is, am, were, felt, seemed, looked), etc.

It's really a verb use and not the verb that is stative: some verbs can be used as active or stative. Some people say that if you can replace the verb with a equals =, and the sentence still "makes sense", it is a stative verb use.

For example:

Your friend looks nice. (Your friend = nice)

This towel feels damp. (This towel = damp )

That new film doesn't sound very interesting. (new film doesn't = interesting)

Dinner smells good tonight. (Dinner = good)

An active verb however, requires the adjective before the subject

The quick mare jumped the hurdle. (mare = the hurdle? No.)

A wise owl looks all around himself. ('Looks' is used /actively/ this time! owl = all around himself? No.)

When an adjective or adjective phrase occurs after the verb and refers to the verb subject, as in the examples above, it is called a subject complement.


I do not know what wrong is.

Wrong is a noun. It could refer to bad behavior, an improper action.

Ex. This student does not know what wrong is. He always interrupts the lesson. They do not know right from wrong. They feel they can do as they please.

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