Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why Are You

I was in class the other day and I heard one of the students say, "Why you are nervous?" Now, this is a common error. The placing of the verb "are" can be confusing.

We do know that in general, verbs are placed close to the subjects of sentences. Hence, we say "She is going to school" and "We are eating out tonight." However, where questions are concerned, the position of the verb can change. In the error that the student committed, the correct form is "Why are you nervous?"

The reason for the shift is simple. The subject, actually, is the answer to "why." In other words, the subject is not "you" but "why." Consider:

Student A: Why are you nervous?
Student B: I'm nervous because I'm presenting my report today.

In this dialogue, the subject of the sentence is the anticipated answer to the "why" question ("because I'm presenting"). I think the rule is the same for other "w" questions. Let's continue the dialogue:

Student C: Where is your presentation going to be?
Student B: In classroom C.
Student A: What are needed for the presentation?
Student B: I'll need a laptop, LCD screen, and maybe a laser pointer.

This rule also applies to "how" questions, which is why we say "How are you?" and not "How you are."

I hope you are all doing well!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you could also touch on the words 'addicting' and 'addictive' and differentiate them. I notice that local Filipinos seem to use 'addicting' a lot - bloggers, newspaper columnists, etc. Enlighten us, please.

Thank you...much appreciated.

The Canadian