Given the following examples:

When it comes to the question of why oil price is rising, there is not really a simple answer

When it comes to the question why oil price is rising there is not really a simple answer

Are they both correct? Does one of the two sound more natural than the other one?

Would it be different if instead of "why" I used "whether"?

When it comes to the question of whether oil price is rising there is not really a simple answer

When it comes to the question whether oil price is rising there is not really a simple answer

  • This is the problem of this site. When someone completely changes the question, the answerer like me doesn't get any notification. By the time I'm notified, the answer would have already gotten some down votes. – Maulik V Jul 23 '14 at 15:37

Why and whether are definitely two different questions. So they are not interchangeable. Why posits that oil price is, in fact, rising and seeks to ascertain the cause. Whether questions if the oil price is, in fact, rising.

However, I would agree that both statements are correct word wise, but not grammar wise. The first is fine. The second, however, would be clearer with:

When it comes to the question,"why is oil price rising," there is not really a simple answer.

"The question of," alludes to the spirit or purpose of the question. "The question," refers to the specific wording of the question. You would not ask someone, "Why oil price is rising?" (Unless, of course, English is your second language, because that's how a lot of people who learn a different language first say it [see "Why you no like me??" meme]) You would say, "Why is oil price rising?" So, when you refer to the question, you are specifically referring to the wording of the question itself.

Hope that helps!

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  • I'd like to add something. While searching on Google Books for some more examples, I found this: "But what is the phenomenon when we reflect on a philosophical approach to ethics?". Is it grammatical to you? Why didn't the author write "...phenomenon of when..."? – njk Jul 23 '14 at 17:40
  • I believe it's a matter of personal preference. You could say: "Has anyone knowledge of what time we will arrive?" or "Does anyone know what time we will arrive?", with when: "Have you knowledge of when we will arrive?" or "Do you know when we will arrive?" They are both correct. But you typically hear the second phrase in conversation. Someone who has a more scholarly background can provide the academic reason and difference. – iolympian Jul 24 '14 at 5:09
  • You would also need quote marks if you were directly stating the question "When it comes to the question 'Why oil price is rising". – Acccumulation Apr 24 '19 at 16:59
  • @njk We would have to see more context to see what the author is saying. If "phenomenon" is supposed to referring to "we reflect on ..", that would be an odd use, since "phenomenon" is supposed to refer to things perceived through senses, and a person reflecting on something isn't perceived through senses. – Acccumulation Apr 24 '19 at 17:02

I had the same question. I've found 'Do we now have an answer to the question of why people believe ...?' and '... there is no simple answer to the question why people are conspiracy-minded.' in the same book (which I'm proofreading). I prefer 'the question of why'.

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