Noun clause as object of the verb



Are these sentences grammatically correct?

(1) Do you know what day it is today?
(2) Can you tell me what day it is today?
(3) Can you tell me what day today is?

If they are correct, which one would be more commonly used? Why?

Vera Mello


All three sentences are grammatically correct, but native speakers would be less likely to use Example (3) because the usual question asked to seek this information is "What day is it (today)?" not "What day is today?"

There's no grammatical difference in the first two examples: "Do you know" and "Can you tell me" are two equally viable speaker choices to introduce the noun clause "what day it is today."

In large part, the choices a speaker (usually unconsciously) makes derive from usual usage—which can be frustrating for students who want to view grammar as formulas that can apply to any situation.

I'm sure all of us as teachers have faced questions from students who present us with grammatically acceptable sentences that are not idiomatic, i.e., what a native speaker would normally say in that situation. I've always tried to explain that "typical and traditional usage" is a large part of a speaker's choice of vocabulary and grammar, and that for second language students, consistently idiomatic usage comes with time and experience.

I'd be interested in knowing how other teachers handle this with their students.

Betty Azar

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