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Of the two sentences “how the data is accessed” and “how is the data accessed”, which one is correct?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

That depends. Either could be correct, given the right context.

Do you know how the data is accessed?

How the data is accessed will be of great concern to us. We can't afford to waste CPU cycles.


How is the data accessed? Can you tell me?

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Neither one of these is correct. The word data is the plural form of datum. Robusto's answer is correct except "data is" should be replaced with "data are" or "datum is." – D. Patrick Nov 3 '11 at 13:02
@D. Patrick: If you are going to be a prescriptivist, then "data" should always be used with a plural verb or copula. But most dictionaries (and most usage) today acknowledge that it can be used in either plural or singular contexts. – Robusto Nov 3 '11 at 15:31
The convention is data is. Data here is considered a collective noun, not a plural of datum. When we say the police arrived on the scene, we mean the police force as a collective noun not the individual policemen. However, in say, geometry, you might treat data as plural if you are referring to several datum elements. – Kris Nov 16 '11 at 12:06

The first is a statement, the second is a question.

edit: IF you added a question mark - (?)!

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I am not sure if the first is a statement. Being a fragment, it is an adjectival clause, or some sort of similar thing. – Kris Nov 16 '11 at 12:14

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