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So, I typed the parenthetic statement 'Asked why did he come here'. Microsoft Word suggested that I change the sentence to 'Asked why he came here'. I agreed with the correction, but when I had word explain the change, the following came up:

Order of Words If your sentence includes a statement about a question rather than a direct question, the subject should come before the verb.

It then went on to give these examples:

Instead of: He asked the bus driver when would the next bus come. Consider: He asked the bus driver when the next bus would come.

Instead of: I wonder what did they serve for lunch. Consider: I wonder what they served for lunch.

Now, I agree with the change to my sentence. It seems 'better sounding' and less awkward, and I thought that if I really wanted to keep the did, maybe the sentence would be better written: Asked 'why did you come here?'. But in the examples Word gives the subject comes before the verb in both the erroneous and correct versions.

Was Word on to an actual grammatical rule, and if so, could someone clear it up for me?

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“Asked why did he come here, John had no answer for the officer.” –  tchrist May 11 '13 at 23:19
    
@Jim No, that is not the point. The point is that inserting a stressed did where I did so is a valid although uncommon technique. It is asking a question with a considerably different emphasis. –  tchrist May 11 '13 at 23:29
    
Or, to put it into the sequence of tenses, "Asked why he had come here, John had no answer ..." –  user21497 May 11 '13 at 23:29
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@tchrist- Ok, I understand your point and I agree, stressing did is valid and changes the implication of the question. We so often use italics to point out a word that I did not interpret your italics as spoken emphasis. –  Jim May 11 '13 at 23:37
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The simple rule is that subject-auxiliary inversion happens in main clause questions, but not in embedded questions. There's a footnote to the effect that, if you intend the embedded question to act like a real question and elicit an answer, you can go ahead and invert (but not in this case, because it's past tense). –  John Lawler May 11 '13 at 23:45
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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt May 12 '13 at 1:12

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1 Answer

MS Word is consistent and correct. The (finite) verbs in the versions it suggested are would and served/did, and those come after the subject in normal statements and indirect questions, but not in direct questions. You used the inverted word order as used in questions, where you should have used normal word order, as Word suggested.

Instead of: I wonder what did they serve for lunch. Consider: I wonder what they served for lunch.

A normal statement has normal word order:

They served bread for lunch.

A normal, direct question has inversion of subject and finite verb:

What did they serve for lunch?

You can, however, turn your indirect question into a direct question, by using quotation marks, as you suggested:

I wonder, "what did they serve for lunch"?

Somewhat less formally, you can leave out the quotation marks; but you should never leave out the comma.

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