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Which is more correct to say in a question? (For example a guy that wakes up in a train)

"Where am I?"

or

"Where I am?"

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closed as general reference by Roaring Fish, Matt Эллен, FumbleFingers, tchrist, RegDwigнt Dec 2 '12 at 17:21

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.

3  
I'd go with "Where am I?". "Where I am" conveys a totally different meaning. –  nikhil Dec 2 '12 at 14:16
    
This question is a better fit for our proposed sister site for English language learners. You can support it by committing. Here on ELU, we expect people to already have a certain grasp of English. Thank you. –  RegDwigнt Dec 2 '12 at 17:23
1  
Well, why downvote? I can't ask the question in ELL - if I could travel in time and go to the future, I would have asked there, but I can't ask questions there right now. –  Magnetic_dud Dec 2 '12 at 17:46
    
@Magnetic_dud: that line of reasoning makes no sense, sorry. The question hasn't been closed because it's on-topic elsewhere; it has been closed because it's off-topic here. And what's off-topic here today is off-topic here today. Astronomy & Astrophysics or Stack Overflow in Spanish are not live, either. That doesn't mean you can go ahead and ask their questions here on ELU. –  RegDwigнt Dec 5 '12 at 9:50
    
Well, I asked a question about English, because I had a doubt about the right usage of the English grammar. I did not ask "how I can avoid a kernel panic while mounting an iso over smb?". However, I understand that I am not welcome here, and it's better that I speak ungrammatically correct English. –  Magnetic_dud Dec 5 '12 at 20:59

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you don't know where you are, you ask, "Where am I?"

The only legitimate use for "Where I am?" is in response to a question about the location of something that you think might be occupying the same general space you are. For example,

Questioner: Do you know where your clothes are?

You: Where I am?

Questioner: Wrong. We found you running around the streets nude.

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The point of difficulty is in recognizing that a form of be can function as an auxiliary verb. Questions in English are formed via Subject-Auxiliary Inversion. If the finite verb in a declarative sentence is any of the following (called auxiliary verbs):

do
be
can
may
shall
will
have

the corresponding question is formed by placing a question word (if it's a content question) at the beginning of the sentence, and then placing the auxiliary verb after the question word (if any). Then put in the rest of the sentence (with the original auxiliary verb and the antecedent of the question word omitted).

For example:

Thomas will buy [beets].
Will Thomas buy beets?
[What] will Thomas buy?

Thomas is [at school].
Is Thomas at school?
[Where] is Thomas?

Thomas should buy beets [at the store].
Should Thomas buy beets at the store?
[Where] should Thomas buy beets?

For declarative sentences whose finite verb is not among the auxiliaries, for the purpose of forming a question you treat the sentence as if it contained an auxiliary do. For example.

Thomas went [to the store]. (original declarative)
Thomas did go [to the store]. (effective form for the purposes of question formation)
Did Thomas go to the store?
[Where] did Thomas go?

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I think this good answer is missing an important point: that be patterns like an auxiliary even when it is not functioning as one, as here. –  Colin Fine Dec 2 '12 at 15:32
    
@ColinFine could you clarify the difference between auxiliary-like patterning and auxiliary-like function? –  jlovegren Dec 2 '12 at 16:03
    
I don't know that these are established terms, but to me they seem descriptive. The clearest difference is in the word have: when it is used with another verb to form a perfect construction, it is functioning as an auxiliary (supporting another verb) and patterns as one (forms negatives and interrogatives without do support). When it has a independent meaning (eg "possess"), it is not functioning as an auxiliary, and optionally does not pattern like one. (In UK English of 50 years ago it nearly always did pattern like one, but this has been changing). –  Colin Fine Dec 4 '12 at 0:48

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