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Maybe you'll ask why do I want to lift my keyboard off my desk.


Microsoft Word says that I should remove the "do". Why is that? I think the "do" should stay there.

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If I had a penny for every time Word whinges about nothing... But the fact of the matter is you could remove "do" with no loss of meaning, and remain grammatically valid. So based on the principle that "less is more" in writing, Word does have a valid point - which you can happily ignore if you want. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 '12 at 16:06
What would you do? – Axonn Feb 6 '12 at 16:21
I'd spend an hour or two seeing what all these guys would do if they had all those pennies, and pick the best option. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 '12 at 16:31
Word's specific gripe here is: Order of Words. If your sentence includes a statement about a question rather than a direct question, the subject should come before the verb. 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. – saritonin Feb 6 '12 at 16:31
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Generally, I tend to use the verb construction "do want" when I am trying to make a contrast to what I don't want.

I don't want a boss who will hold my hand. What I do want is a boss who will let me learn from my own mistakes.

I'd agree with Microsoft - unless you are contrasting to reasons why people don't want to lift the keyboard, I'd drop the "do" from the sentence.

Maybe you'll ask why I want to lift my keyboard off my desk...

If you'd like to keep the word "do" in your sentence, I'd suggest one of the following, depending on whether the reader is asking themselves why they'd lift the keyboard or why the author would lift the keyboard:

Reader asking self:

Maybe you'll ask, "Why do I want to lift my keyboard off my desk?"

Reader asking author:

Maybe you'll ask why I do want to lift my keyboard off my desk.

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Is your last sentence correct? "... why I do want..."? – Axonn Feb 6 '12 at 16:23
I'd use the last sentence as a contrast (like in the first example). "Many people don't want to lift their keyboards. Maybe you'll ask why I do want to lift my keyboard off my desk." – saritonin Feb 6 '12 at 16:27
Oh, right. I think that if you'd have italicized your "I do", I would have got the intonation. It's a tricky sentence in text mode ::- ). – Axonn Feb 6 '12 at 16:29
-1: OP isn't asking about the difference between why I do want and why I want. He's asking about why do I want. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 '12 at 16:35

Why do I want to lift my keyboard off my desk?


I was asked why I want to lift my keyboard off my desk.

Reported Speech

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Does this really have anything to do with reported speech? – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 6 '12 at 16:09

Ignore what Word says. Better yet, turn off Word's grammar checker; it's designed for American English native speakers, not for English learners. It's loaded with zombie rules to make Americans feel less anxious about never being taught grammar in school.

As for what it's flagging, there are two issues involved.

The first one is Do-Support, which provides a meaningless auxiliary do when an auxiliary verb is required by some construction like Negation, Wh-Question-Formation, or Tag Formation, viz.

  • I want it. ~ I don't want it.
  • You want it (at some place). ~ Where do you want it?
  • You want it. ~ You want it, don't you? ~ You don't want it, do you?

The second issue is the construction you present. It's an embedded question, a type of complement clause that is the direct object of ask. In embedded question constructions, the usual Subject-Auxiliary Inversion (as in What did you ask?, with Do-Support) is normally not performed, producing

  • I don't know what you asked

instead of

  • I don't know what did you ask.

That's what Word flagged.

However, it's wrong in this case because it didn't notice -- and has no way of noticing in any event -- that this is a situation where it's OK to do the inversion, and use the do. I recently dealt with this question here, and the rest of the explanation is in the link.

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Thank you for the clarification ::- ). You made me smile with the statement about the zombie rules ::- D. – Axonn Feb 6 '12 at 19:05

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