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.

  • 3
    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

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


"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.


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)

  • I have redressed the phantom downvote. Though I'd avoid the awkward construction myself. Mar 8 '14 at 10:35
  • 1
    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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