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I always get confused between these two sentences:

Why are you making noise?

Why you are making noise?

Could anyone put light in the differences between the two?

  • 5
    As a learner of English language I can only say that the first is right while the second is wrong. In this case I guess you have only to learn the rules governing the why-questions, which are founded on the so-called "inversion" of the subject with the auxiliary verb. – user114 Mar 6 '13 at 15:06
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    @Carlo_R. is right. The first is correct and the second is not. – Kevin Mar 6 '13 at 15:11
  • Sudhir, however there are cases in which the subject-auxliary inversion, as in long sentences like "She wants to know how far it is to New York", doesn't apply. Saying "She wants to know how far is it to New York" would be wrong. – user114 Mar 6 '13 at 15:24
  • The second one as its own sentence, is incorrect, but you could phrase it like this to make it correct: "Is that why you are making noise?" – 智障的人 Oct 4 '15 at 0:54
6

I can see that this could be confusing for someone learning the language.

In English, in a declarative sentence, we normally put subject - verb - object.

You are making noise.

Sally shut the door.

In a question, we normally put interrogative pronoun - helping verb - subject - primary verb - object. By "helping verb" here I mean "is", "are", "did", etc. By "primary verb" I mean the word describing the action you are asking about.

Why are you making noise?

Who is making noise?

Where did Bob go?

There may not be a primary verb if the question is about existence or identity.

Who is at the door?

What is the reason?

  • In the latter examples the verb "is" is the primary verb. – Em1 May 16 '13 at 7:07
  • @Em1 True, I didn't say that right. I should have said, "If the question is about existence or identity, the 'is' or 'are' itself may be the primary verb." Or something like that. I hope I got the idea across, anyway. – Jay May 22 '13 at 17:42
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To turn the statement "You are making noise." into a wh-question, you need to do two things:

  1. add an appropriate wh-word, such as "why"; and
  2. switch the subject "you" with the auxiliary "are".

This is called subject-auxiliary inversion, and in a direct wh-question it's obligatory. The resulting sentence looks like this:

Why are you making noise?

The inversion signals that the wh-word begins a direct question (a main interrogative clause). Without the inversion, we have instead an indirect question (a subordinate interrogative clause). An indirect question can't stand on its own as a sentence, but it can be part of a larger sentence. For example:

I want to know why you are making noise.

In this sentence, inversion would be incorrect.

There is one more situation where inversion doesn't occur: when the wh-word is the subject (or is part of the subject). For example, look at the following sentence:

Who is making noise?

The wh-word is the subject. Since the wh-word has to come at the beginning of the sentence, swapping "who" and "is" is ungrammatical; the sentence *"Is who making noise?" is unacceptable.

  • I want to know why you are making noise. there won't be ? instead of .? – Sudhir Mar 7 '13 at 4:53
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    No, because it's grammatically a statement rather than a question. I'm telling you what I want to know instead of asking it directly. This is called an "indirect question", and you can read more about them in this answer by Bill Franke. – snailboat Mar 7 '13 at 5:02
5

The first one suggests that the speaker is asking a question.

Why are you making noise?

In the second one, if there had been a comma, and an exclamation mark instead of question mark, like this:

Why, you are making noise!

Then, it'd mean that the speaker is implying that the person was found making noise.

In the current context, of course, the second one is wrong.

  • 3
    Or you could say "You are making noise, why? – user485 Mar 6 '13 at 19:27
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My personal assumption is that this inversion arises due to the reason that this is not actually a question but instead it is an assertion.

In that question's case, the questioner is not actually questioning but "unconciously" being angry or irritated by the person who is making the noise. This is from a non-native, though. ( But I encounter these kinds of sentences quite often so that I become too complexed by these sometimes. )

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