I'm not sure what the correct way for placing a verb in such cases is:

"May I ask what Australia’s policy is regarding this scheme?"

or should it be

"May I ask what is Australia’s policy regarding this scheme?"

Or are they both acceptable?

  • In writing, the proper punctuation for the second is probably "May I ask 'what is Australian's policy regarding this scheme?'". But certainly both are acceptable in speech. Sep 25, 2014 at 15:07
  • There are a bunch of similar questions, for example here and here, but I don't know whether I like the answers for either of them. Sep 25, 2014 at 15:12
  • 1
    The first one is correct and normal. Subject-Auxiliary Inversion normally does not occur in embedded questions. The second one is not normal, but it is also correct, because this is actually intended to be a question, and requests an answer. In that context -- only -- subject-verb inversion is allowed in embedded question clauses, to emphasize the interrogative nature of the utterance. In that case, the auxiliary verb would be stressed. Sep 25, 2014 at 15:12
  • @JohnLawler Interestingly if you say 'What, may I ask, is Australia's policy as regards this scheme?', the question acquires an air of brusqueness and impatience.
    – WS2
    Sep 25, 2014 at 15:31
  • Yes, but of course that's a completely different structure, with the erstwhile matrix clause demoted to interjection status, and the embedded question promoted to matrix clause status. Note also that in that case subject-auxiliary alternation is obligatory: *What, may I ask, Australia's policy is as regards this scheme? Sep 25, 2014 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


Both would likely be acceptable in speech, as the commenters above indicate, but the first one makes more sense in writing; placing "is" after "policy" indicates more clearly that you are asking about the policy. Granted, there wouldn't be much doubt that that is what you want to know about, but the placement of "is" in the first instance is clearer.

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