Jan. 27, 2019

Sentence 027 Let the cat out of the bag.

027 Subject Question.

027 General Question.

027 Verb Question.

027 Object Question.

027 Manner Question.

027 Place Question.

027 Time Question.

Leslie: The topic for today is ’Question Word Order’. A sticky topic.

Paul: I would prefer a reversed order; I would like to ask you if you don’t mind.

L: OK. It is an extremely important topic. Go ahead.

P: Why is it such an important topic?

L: A good conversation is neither a monologue, nor a sandwich of Positive Sentences.

It is a composition of Questions and Answers on both sides.

In school, the situation is very funny: the teacher, who knows the answers, asks the questions and the students, who may or may not know the answers, will [try to] give the answers.

That’s the very reason why most of the students will not learn high-level question-and-answer techniques.  

 P: Where should we start, then?

L: We must start with the Positive [Affirmative] Sentence. The basic structure of the English Sentence is Subject – Verb – Object – Adverb of Manner – Adverb of Place – Adverb of Time. E. g.

John   read   the letter   very quickly   in his office   before lunch.

As a matter of course, there are other kinds of Sentences, e. g. when the Verb is a Copula but, first things first, let’s learn the basics.

P: Which type of Question is most similar to the Positive Sentence? I’m asking you about the minimal change.

L: It is the Subject Question. It is almost exactly the same as the Positive Sentence; the only difference is that we know the Subject in the Positive Sentence and in the Subject Question, we don’t.

Who   read   the letter   very quickly   in his office   before lunch?

There is no change in the Word Order, the Jump Word doesn’t need to jump, we don’t need to create an Infinitive, and we don’t need to get rid of the Old [Original] Verb.

Just put ’Who’ or ’What’ in place of the Subject, and the Subject Question is ready.

We can say that the Positive Sentence and the Subject Question are Structural Relatives.

P: What comes next?

L: It is the General [Yes-No] Question because all the other questions are derivatives of this.

First of all, we have to have a Jump Word if we want to make a Question. The Jump Word is is one of the 24 Anomalous Finites.

Grammar Books, and teachers behind them, always tell students to ’use Did or Do or Does’ to ask a Question.

What they don’t, and can’t, tell students is where Students should get that ’Did’ or ’Do’ or ’Does’ from, what they should do with the Original [Main] Verb, and where they should get an Infinitive from.

Did   John   read   the letter   quickly   in his office   before lunch?

We don’t need to import a Jump Word; rather we make them ont he spot by breaking up the Orange [Main] Verb into a Jump Word, and an Infinitive with the same information-content as the Orange [Main] Verb.

P: What is the next logical step?

L: The Verb Question. As all the others that follow, the Verb Question comes out of the General Question. The main difference is that here we don’t know the Action or Happening.

I’ve used ’main difference’ because, very often, if we don’t know the Verb and ask about it, we may not know the Object and some of the Adverbs either.

What   did   John   do   quickly   in his office   before lunch?

Here, if we don’t know what John did, i. e. if we don’t know that he read something, we may not know that the something was a letter so ’letter’ cannot be in the Verb Question.

P: The next step is to ask the Object Question.

L: It is becoming very easy, isn’t it?

What   did   John   read   quickly   in his office   before lunch?

Here, we know that John read something and the only question is what he read.

P: Then the Manner Question.

L: It is very often missing from the repertoire buti t also needs practice.

How   did   John   read   the letter   in his office   before lunch?

P: The Place Question comes almost automatically, doesn’t it?

L: Sure.

Where   did   John   read   the letter   quickly   before lunch?

And the Time Question completes the Question Matrix:

When   did   John   read   the letter   quickly   in his office?

Of course, for all Questions, the missing information is the Answer.

You can find a very high, and growing number of examples in the Sentence Matrix.