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For example, which one(s) is correct:

  1. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

  2. Why did the chicken cross the road: to get to the other side.

  3. Why did the chicken cross the road?--To get to the other side.

Please put any other ways to construct this sequence.

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    Only the first one is correct. Why would an answer necessarily be a dependent clause?
    – virmaior
    Mar 8 '14 at 9:57
  • I saw some answers as incomplete sentences in terms of Subject and Verb requirements. Some of them only have subjects: i.e. "What is a chicken? A bird." "A bird." is just a subject.
    – Sleeper
    Mar 9 '14 at 6:10
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Why did the chicken cross the road? ... To get to the other side.

or

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"

"To get to the other side."

(answered by a second person)

doesn't contain two sentences as strictly defined. However, the 'rule' 'you must never use / write / ... other than in true sentences' is a pseudo-rule. We don't worry about saying 'Yes', 'Why?', 'In the pantry', ''Hello'. These are often called 'sentence substitutes', or 'sentence fragments' where they're obvious ellipted sentences ('[The mustard is] in the pantry'). They're quite acceptable in the correct place, and are punctuated as if they were true sentences.

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Normally, question and answer are two sentences in their own right.

Occasionally, one may construct a sentence where one answers a question within. In that case, yes, the answer is a clause, and is separated by a comma.

Why did the chicken cross the road, to get to the other side.

This is an awkward construction making the Why did redundant. However, it has the advantage of presenting a complete argument in an integrated sentence.

The first thing … is to get rid of the business owners'/leaders' ego. Why am I saying this, because there are people out there who can do it better than you … (Building a Team)

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  • I have redressed the phantom downvote. Though I'd avoid the awkward construction myself. Mar 8 '14 at 10:35
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    This looks so bad I don't think it can possibly be correct. Can you find a reference saying this is acceptable? Mar 8 '14 at 10:55

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