1. Loving you is like breathing, how can I stop?

  2. He asked how I had failed in the examination.

In example 1, firstly, there is a comma before the second clause. Secondly, it's in interrogative order. Thirdly, it has a question mark in the end. Furthermore, in the first clause, ( loving is like breathing.) an assertion has been made. While the second clause (How can I stop?) seems more like exclamatory than interrogative, shouldn't it be like, how I can stop!

Now, if we analyse the second sentence, it is devoid of all the three rules. What is the basic difference and what is the role of the word (how) in both of these examples?

  • 2
    "How can I stop" is a non-coordinative main clause, and hence it should be separated from the previous clause with a full stop. In 2. "how I failed the examination" is an interrogative, but it's a subordinate one (embedded question), and hence doesn't require a question mark.
    – BillJ
    Jun 27, 2022 at 8:48
  • Loving you is like breathing. How can I stop? This is editing, not grammar. Your 2) is just reported speech.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


You only add a question mark if it is an obvious question. The second one does not have a question mark because "asked how I had failed" is a statement not a question. The first one has a question - "how can I stop?" - and is not a statement, so a question mark is used.

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  • 1
    Yes. I would add that in 2. the whole sentence is a statement, but "how I had failed the examination" is a subordinate interrogative clause (embedded question), and such interrogatives do not require a question mark.
    – BillJ
    Jun 27, 2022 at 8:50
  • 1
    obvious question or query. An inquiry is an investiagation.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 17:23

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