I have been reading an article and I came across a sentence:

South Korean YouTuber Sw Yoon decided to conduct a little experiment around the campus of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan. He asked a bunch of students, all from different countries around the world, how could they could recognize Americans.

I'm wondering why the word "could" is used twice in this sentence? I think it would be correct too if it were like this:

how could they recognize Americans.


1 Answer 1


I'm sure this is a mistake. There can't be two predicates of this kind in one clause. Speaking about the correct version, I think it should be: He asked.... how they could recognize... This is a reported speech and not a question, so a direct word order is necessary.

  • So, does swapping place of a word and a pronoun in all sentences change it's form from reported speech to question? Thanks. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 8:16
  • 1
    No, because not all sentences are reported speech. But reported questions do need to have auxiliary verbs in reversed order from quoted questions. So, as FoxyFox said, He asked "How could they [main verb] ." becomes He asked how they could [main verb].... Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 8:25
  • BTW— CusUerTnaEme Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 8:28
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    Look how the reported speech works. You have a sentence like this: John says, "I like this film". It is an example of a direct speech. If you want to report it, you make a complex sentence: John says that he likes this film. If you have a question, you report this question as an affirmative sentence, not a question. John asks Tom, "Do you like the movie?" John asks Tom if he likes the movie.
    – FoxyFox
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 8:28
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    The OP user name is two words woven. Uppercase letters spell "GOOD"; lowercase spells "forever". I answered in same manner, expressing by imitation my admiration for his cleverness, while showing that I had deciphered the pattern. Get it? Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 6:28

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