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Is there a grammatical point difference in the following 2 sentences:

Please let me know what is the plan.

Please let me know what the plan is.

I am so used to the first method that I think that it is actually the wrong way of saying it, due to habitual direct translations from my mother tongue.

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closed as general reference by J.R., tchrist, MετάEd, Mahnax, kiamlaluno Sep 15 '12 at 21:28

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I believe the first is incorrect and the second is correct. –  Billy Sep 14 '12 at 2:00
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You could also just get used to saying "Please let me know the plan", and avoid "what" whenever you don't need it. Then you won't accidentally come out with that "not a native speaker" first version. But it's not a matter of grammar - it's just that the second is the idiomatic standard form. –  FumbleFingers Sep 14 '12 at 3:08
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Thanks for the comments. Why not put as answers? Something to do with the downvote? Please enlighten me as I am quite new to this SE. –  Jake Sep 14 '12 at 3:51
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Sometimes people feel that they have something to contribute towards answering your question, but don't have enough content (or perhaps time) to fully answer it. Since these thoughts would be incomplete (or tangential) as answers, but may still be useful, they are often left as comments. People will also sometimes leave answers as comments if they are based on "native speaker's intuition" rather than more formal correctness conditions of the language. –  Cameron Sep 14 '12 at 5:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The second one is right.

"What S + V" is a noun clause. And in your particular example, it's in the form of an embedded question as well.

You can see it clearly this way:

When we make direct questions in English, we normally follow the V + S pattern (that is, helping verb + subject):

What is the plan?

But inside another sentence -- in your example, an imperative or a request -- the direct question can't continue being a question. So, it must follow the sentence pattern: S + V.

Please tell me what the plan is.


Here's another example:

  • Direct Question

What did you talk about?

  • Embedded Question

Please tell me what you talked about.

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There are technical names of the mixed phrases used in your first example, and I can't recall them at the moment, but I believe that it is grammatically incorrect. Let's break it into two parts:

  1. Please let me know
  2. what is the plan.

The first part is essentially a command (albeit a polite one), while the second phrase is a question. Questions in English are always followed by a question mark (?). However, your intended meaning is clear enough that this is NOT a question, but a request. I often hear this phrasing from several of my non-native English speaking friends, so you're definitely not alone in this regard.

A good rule to follow is that the interrogative "what" followed by a conjugate of "to be" is always going to be the beginning of a question (I can't think of an example where this doesn't hold true). When these words are separated by a pronoun or noun, it is no longer a question, and instead becomes a statement, e.g. "let me know what THE PLAN is".

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