I have always followed the former rule, i.e, "Tell me why I should marry you" (without a question mark). But my cousin insists the latter is correct. He seems equally confident that he is correct. So can you please answer which is correct? Or are both correct?

Or the following example would illustrate my question better:

  1. Give me reasons why I should marry you.
  2. Give me reasons why should I marry you?

Which of the above is correct?


You're right about the first sentence. Your cousin could be right, too, but he should write the sentence this way:

Tell me: why should I marry you?

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  • 1
    I was about to suggest a comma after "Tell me", but the colon has the same idea: setting off the question from the introduction. – AmeliaBR Feb 2 '14 at 20:58
  • ... and thus signalling a quote structure. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 2 '14 at 23:36

In a real question you have inversion of subject and verb as in Can you help me, Do you like him. Normal sentence order only if the question word (who, what) is a nominative (subject case) as in: Who called? What's up. --- When you build in a question sentence into another sentence (dependent question clause) then you have normal sentence order. He asked how he should do it. Not: He asked how should he do it. --- In colloquial language this rule for written English is not always observed. You'll find a lot of examples where people have their own way to tell such things. Often they begin with "He aked and then they add a direct question or He asked how should he do it (inversion as in a direct question). When people speak they don't speak texts appropriate for print. When you listen to a talk registered on tape you will find the most sentences are half sentences, not finished, or sentences with change of construction and such things. You would have a lot of editing work in order to get such a text ready for print.

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From your improved example:

"Give me reasons why I should marry you." is correct.

"Give me reasons why should I marry you?" isn't correct because you haven't included something that introduces a quote structure or new clause, as mentioned in Louel's answer and comments. Accordingly, something like "Give me reasons: why should I marry you?" is then correct punctuation for an indirect question.

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