I understand the basic rules to convert a statement to a question, for instance,

That is a cat.

What is that?

the grammar pattern is what + be + pronoun.

In one of my posts (Is "the first time" a type of signposting language or something like that?) I said

"distinct episodes (times)" from what? some other kind of episodes (times)? What would that be?

A complete form of that would be

What kind of episodes would that be?

I see lots of people use this kind of expression. Is it grammatical? If yes what is the grammar pattern?

Could someone please give a hint? Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


Yes, that is perfectly grammatical.

When we ask a question with a wh-word that isn't the subject, we invert the verb and the subject, eg

What is that?

Where are you?

When there is an auxiliary (which there always is for a question, unless the verb is be or - for some users - have), we invert the subject and the auxiliary, but the main verb follows after:

What would that be?

What will you do?

When should I go?

  • Thanks for your comprehensive explanation. And "what am I going to do" comes from the same way, right?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 23:47
  • 1
    @WXJ96163: Yes. I could have been more precise and say that only the first auxiliary precedes the subject: all the rest of the verb string (however many modals and auxililaries that is) follows: What might you have been going to say?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 23:51

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