I'm wondering about the sentence structure when you use wonder.

Take for instance:

I wonder when will my money be refunded.

I wonder when my money will be refunded.

I wonder when is my money going to be refunded.

I wonder when my money is going to be refunded.

Are all these sentences correct or only some of them? By "correct" I mean "grammatically correct".

Could you provide examples of sentences starting with [subject]+wonder, and without it while conveying the same idea?

  • 5
    #2 and #4 are standard. #1 and #3 are nonstandard and would not be tolerated in school or in any edited work; they might be used in speech if they were intoned as quotes or questions, i.e. "I wonder, will will my money be refunded?"
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 0:44
  • The only time #1 would be correct is when in a sort of self-reflexive mode you speculate: "I wonder, when will my money be refunded. I even wonder IF my money will be refunded!" [emphasis on "if"] Sentence #3 could be modified in similar fashion in a self-reflexive mode, but the resulting construction would be quite rare, I suspect! I agree with Mitch. Numbers 2 and 4 are just fine. There's a Christmas song that goes, "I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus the Savior did come for to die, for poor orn'ry sinners like you and like I." ["Orn'ry" denotes meanness, stubbornness.] Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 1:27
  • Better on ELL SE.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 14:41

3 Answers 3


As @Mitch comments, whilst it's relatively common in casual speech, I wonder shouldn't really be followed by an actual question (an interrogative).

Taking a typical interrogative, such as who are you, I don't know the specific grammatical term for the reordered version who you are, so I'll just call it a "wh- noun phrase" (which is what you should use after I wonder). Here's the relevant definition for wonder from OED...

(definition #2) Usually with clause: To ask oneself in wonderment; to feel some doubt or curiosity (how, whether, why, etc.); to be desirous to know or learn.

It's particularly worth noting the following supplementary point made by OED...

I wonder is often placed after a question which expresses the object of curiosity or doubt;
e.g. ‘How can that be, I wonder?’ = I wonder how that can be.

...where I've highlighted the word-order switch made in that example.

  • The use of wonder as a quotative verb is recognised by Downing and Locke: 'Mental process verbs which occur as quotatives are few in number in English, in comparison with the wide variety of verbs used in quoted speech. They include think, the basic verb, and other verbs of cognition which express some additional, often aspectual, meaning: muse, ponder, reflect, wonder.' Quotation marks would not be used to frame these muses, but some form of punctuation should be used after an introductory quotative / quote verb: 'I wonder : / - when will my money be refunded?' Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 22:59
  • @Edwin: The fact that wonder can be used as a "quotative verb" isn't in dispute. After all, the archetypal such is ask, and exactly the same principle applies: How can that be, I asked?’ = I asked how that can be. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 23:15
  • ...then there's my favourite "quotative verb" - when people use go to mean said, asked. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 23:18
  • Are you not tempted by 'be like'? Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 9:30
  • @Edwin: ...and Edwin's like, "Aren't you tempted?". But FumbleFingers goes "Nah!". Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 14:00

The sentence structure I wonder [X] is declarative. The X is usually a noun clause that is the object of the verb wonder.

The X is treated as a thing, not a question. In the sentence

I wonder when my money will be refunded

the clause when my money will be refunded refers to a discrete concept, a particular defined period of time. Overall, the sentence is not asking a question but observing what the speaker is thinking about.

I often think about the possible date of my tax refund and how I am going to spend it (although I don't know exactly when that will be).

Because English is a little-declined language, word order is generally used to reflect which terms are the subject and objects (and other forms) in a sentence. The most common word order is subject-verb-object. To indicate a question, we often reverse the subject-verb order

I will go to the store.

Will I go to the store?

In examples 1 and 3 in the question, the when clause uses the interrogatory structure of verb-subject, will my money and is my money.

As noted above, the object of I wonder is a defined thing, not a question. as such the interrogatory forms are not correct. The declarative forms of 2 and 4 are.


used in phrases, at the beginning of a request, to make it more formal and polite: -- Cambridge Dictionary


  1. We were wondering if/whether you'd like to have dinner with us some time?

  2. [ + question word ] I wonder whether you could pass me the butter?

  3. I wonder if you could give me some information about places to visit in the area?

From Swan, 278:

  • DIRECT: Which is my seat?
  • INDIRECT: She wondered which was her seat.
    OR: She wondered which her seat was.

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