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Can the "why" be removed from the phrase "have some reason why you?"

Example:

Do you have some reason you ____?

vs.

Do you have some reason why you ____?

Are these both grammatically correct? What's the difference, if any? Googling I find a lot of both, but I'm still wondering about this.

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Do you mean "can the 'why' be removed?"? –  wfaulk Aug 11 '11 at 20:36
    
Do you mean to ask if the word 'why' can be removed, because it's the only word missing from the second example? –  Mark T Aug 11 '11 at 20:37
    
Yes, I fixed the question. –  language hacker Aug 11 '11 at 20:38
    
Another answer is here: english.stackexchange.com/a/119880/15299 –  John Lawler Feb 23 at 17:57
    
I find both to be acceptable. I think including the "why" tends to make the sentence less ambiguous for readers for whom English is not their first language, as it breaks up the sentence and may match more closely the formal constructions of other languages. –  AdamV May 7 at 11:40
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5 Answers 5

I think this is quite a subtle issue. I agree with another answer that in OP's specific phrase, "why" is probably better. However, in this similar case...

  • Is there some reason you don't want to come?
  • Is there some reason why you don't want to come?

...I feel it's less important whether "why" is present or not. And insofar as I have an opinion at all, I would rather not include it.

This NGram has over 10,000 hits for "there some reason", of which it's obvious over half are questions that don't continue with "why". Plus 2670 for "there some reason why", which are nearly all questions.

In short, I think the distinction between "reason" and "reason why" largely comes down to individual style, and particular idiomatic usages.

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This is a good answer. In some languages there are constructs for which there must be two parts e.g. "from ___ to ___" but that isn't true for "Reason why" in English grammar. "Reason why" sounds redundant. But awkward as it may seem to me, NO rule is broken. Usage is a matter of personal preference! –  Feral Oink Aug 12 '11 at 4:10
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Well, since this issue's already come up once today, I guess I better elaborate my comment.

As it turns out, why may only be used in a relative clause that modifies the noun reason.
In much the same way, relatives with where must modify a place noun, and relatives with when must modify a time noun. While there are a lot of time and place nouns, there's only one reason noun, and it's reason.

Since the structure is so constrained, and so redundant, something is often deleted,
so that a simple tensed clause following reason implies why.

  • He didn't tell me the reason why he wore a polka-dot dress.
  • He didn't tell me the reason that he wore a polka-dot dress.
  • He didn't tell me the reason he wore a polka-dot dress.

Similarly, leaving out the reason, but leaving in why, produces an embedded question clause
(also known as a free relative clause or a headless relative)

  • He didn't tell me why he wore a polka-dot dress.

that also does the same job.

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Obviously the question is asking for a reason for what the person did, or is about to do. Without a "why", it wouldn't ask that question: "Do you have some reason you....(would like to tell?)" It doesn't ask the same question as "Do you have some reason why you did what you did?" Try it:

Do you have some reason you would like to do this?/ Sounds wrong for asking this question, and I believe is wrong.

Do you have some reason why you would like to do this?/Sounds correct for asking a question of this sort.

Basically, the first(without "why") is better for asking something like "Do you have some reason you would like to give/tell us?" It doesn't ask the person for the reason for doing something.

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FWIW, both sound perfectly natural to me. –  wfaulk Aug 11 '11 at 22:00
    
I completely disagree. I find the form without "why" a little more awkward, but I can't find any difference in meaning. I would say "a reason for liking" rather than either of them. –  Colin Fine Aug 12 '11 at 13:40
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When spoken, both will work well. The why is something that follows naturally after reason, so it can be implied. When you say it, you already know what you want to say, so you don't need all the words that gives sentences structure.

When written, the second is easier to read. The why works as sort of a divider between the two parts of the question. Without the why you have to read the whole sentence before you can grasp its structure and figure out that there is an implied why in it.

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The NOAD has the following notes about the reason why:

The construction "the reason why …" has been objected to on the grounds that the subordinate clause should express a statement, using a that-clause, not imply a question with a why-clause: "the reason that I decided not to phone" rather than "the reason why I decided not to phone." "The reason why" has been called a redundancy to be avoided, but it is a mild one, and idiomatic. An objection is also made to the construction "the reason … is because," as in "the reason I didn't phone is because my mother has been ill." The objection is made on the grounds that either because or the reason is redundant; it is better to use the word that instead ("the reason I didn't phone is that …") or rephrase altogether ("I didn't phone because …").

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NOAD is leaning slightly towards pedantry, I feel. –  FumbleFingers Aug 11 '11 at 23:43
    
I think that their notes is quite right, but that is about static a specific reason, not asking about a reason. –  Guffa Aug 13 '11 at 21:55
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