5

We asked because of what she laughed.

This sentence is supposed to be grammatically wrong. Why is it so? What is the correct version?

  • Do you know what's wrong with it? There's at least two options. – jimsug Sep 23 '15 at 11:21
  • "We asked because of what she laughed AT" would make sense. – user24561 Sep 23 '15 at 21:59
  • It would be very unusual, but I can see a way this sentence would be correct. In fiction, laughed can be used to mean spoke words with a laughing voice then she could have laughed a comment. The comment which she laughed might then prompt others to ask a question. – barbecue Sep 24 '15 at 1:03
7

Laughing does not typically report speech.

*She laughed a good idea.
?She laughed hello.
She said hello.

Since in this case, what stands for an argument to laugh, which is at best questionable.

You can repair this by changing either the verb, or what:

  • We asked because of why/when she laughed.

  • We asked because of what she said.

There are many more possibilities, but those two options probably change the sentence the least.

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    +1 It could also be intended to represent We asked why she laughed or We asked what she was laughing about. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 23 '15 at 11:31
  • yeah, there's many possibilities... let me address that. – jimsug Sep 23 '15 at 11:31
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    And what about this version: We asked from what reason she laughed. – bart-leby Sep 23 '15 at 11:32
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    @bart that wouldn't work in most contexts. It's at least archaic, if not outright ungrammatical. – jimsug Sep 23 '15 at 11:33
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    @bart-leby You could say We asked for what reason she laughed, but this should be avoided because the collocation ask for usually means request. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 23 '15 at 11:47
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"Because of what" is not something you say often in English when "what" is a question. (It is often used when "what" refers to something: "I had to apologize because of what he did" - but it is not used to ask something, as in the original sentence.)

When asking a question, often you would use "why" instead

We asked why she laughed.

or more likely,

We asked why she was laughing.

Also, you don't laugh because of something, you laugh at it or about it. So

We asked what she was laughing at.

We asked what she was laughing about.

although as others have pointed out, you could laugh because of being tickled or inhaling laughing gas or whatever.

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    While it's not common to laugh because of something, it is possible. Being tickled often causes people to involuntarily laugh. – TheZ Sep 23 '15 at 15:59
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    "Because of what" is fine in other phrases - "Because of what she said", "Because of what she ate", "Because of what she did" etc. I think the main differences is those are transitive verbs. – bdsl Sep 23 '15 at 16:43
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    I completely agree with bdsl and disagree with this answer. "Because of what" is quite common. "The girl yelled at the bully because of what he had done to her sister." For this particular case, there's not a more natural way to say it. – ErikE Sep 23 '15 at 22:48
  • Also, laughing because is perfectly fine. "When he said ‘your hair looks stupid’, I laughed because he had toilet paper stuck to his shoe, which looked far more ridiculous." – ErikE Sep 23 '15 at 23:33
  • Yeah, saying that because of what is not often used is not really right. Because of what happened, because of what they saw, because of what was broken, because of what... I could find more examples, but this answer pretty much starts with an incorrect premise. – jimsug Sep 24 '15 at 5:48
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Grammar, dimly remembered from schooldays ...

In English, the fundamental structure of a grammatically correct sentence is [subject] [verb] [object]. Subject and verb are not optional, but some intransitive verbs do not accept an object. In "I took a biscuit", the subject is "I", the verb is "took" and the object (the thing that the verb is referring to) is "a biscuit". "Laughed" is intransitive. You can't laugh anything, you just laugh. If you laugh and [then] say something, that's exactly how you write it. 'She laughed, and said "Never!".'

Subject and object are frequently phrases rather than single words. In my first sentence above, "the fundamental structure of a grammatically correct sentence" is the subject.

1

The problem is that it's very rare to use the verb laugh transitively. It is possible for laugh to be used transitively, but it's usually (maybe even exclusively) used that way to qualify the laugh itself.

E.g., (from englishpractice.com)

  • We fought a good fight
  • We laughed such a hearty laugh that we fell out of our seats.

This might be a stretch, but I'm trying to play with it a bit by composing something that might allow it to work in a certain context:

She laughed a laugh that was completely ridiculous; she laughed what was the loudest laugh we'd ever heard. We wondered, "Can this really be?" because what she laughed seemed impossible. We asked because of what she laughed.

  • May be my misunderstanding stemms from the fact that I consider "why" and "because of what" to be synonyms which is probably not so. I supposed that "Why are you laughing"? = "Because of what are you laughing"? – bart-leby Sep 23 '15 at 19:13
  • 'because of what' is not interrogative but explicative. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 23 '15 at 19:37
  • @bart-leby: it seems you have correctly identified your issue; "why" and "because of what" are not equivalent. Both why and what indicate a question, "because of x" indicates an answer. Because of what is neither a question nor an answer. So, you could say "We asked why she laughed" or "We asked what caused her to laugh". It can sorta be made to work but would need a lot more context (and punctuation). "We asked, because she laughed, what was so funny about the letter she was reading". I'm not sure it can be made to work with the "what" included. – jmoreno Sep 24 '15 at 4:54
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Although other answers have pointed out that laughter does not convey speech, this is not necessarily true.

"You look like little red riding hood," he laughed.

Source

"I like to be comfortable", he laughed.

Source

"Yes, yes," he laughed, "I've been through the mill."

Source

"Hello, sweet ladies," he laughed in a fruity, musical voice.

Source

So the sentence is not technically ungrammatical.

Ordinarily the distinction is made between speaking and laughing, and certainly it's hard to speak intelligibly while laughing, so the sentence sounds quite odd.

0

The other answers assume you mean "We asked [a question] because of [what she laughed]".

However, I think what you actually mean is simply "We asked her why she laughed".

Correct alternatives

The most common ways to say this would be:

  • We asked [her] why she laughed.
  • We asked what she was laughing about.

These would also be correct:

  • We asked what the cause of her laughter was.
  • We asked her what caused her to laugh.
  • We asked her the reason for her laughter.
  • We asked for what reason she laughed.

I think this one is correct but sounds awkward:

  • We asked her what she laughed because of.

Problems with "We asked because of what she laughed":

  1. The sentence structure "We <verb> because of <...>" almost always gives the cause <...> for an action. E.g. "We jumped because of a loud noise." All the other answers (so far) have interpreted your sentence like this.
  2. "Because of what" is occasionally used instead of "why" for emphasis, e.g. "You're late, because of what?" However, it is never placed before the action: "Because of what, you're late?" does not make sense.

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