I am watching a video series to prepare for CCNA certification tests. The instructor has this horrible habit of making a statement with words that sound like he's asking a question, e.g.

… it’s going to tell you what is the hostname of the device…

I would assume the correct verbiage would be …what the hostname of the device is….

This is but one of many examples. Here are a couple more:

You wouldn't want to memorize what are all the mac addresses of the switches…

… so if you wanted to change how often are they sending their messages…

Even though it's driving me up the wall, I'm not here simply to vent. I'm curious. Is there a term for this specific type of incorrect sentence?

  • I'm not sure it's technically incorrect.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 1, 2014 at 3:16
  • 1
    My guess is that the person is not a native English speaker. I have heard this only from such people. And curiously, for some reason only from people who also say tell when they mean say. Perhaps these two errors reflect usage in their language (I do not know what that language is).
    – Drew
    Dec 1, 2014 at 4:48
  • I do believe his native language is English. In fact, that's the only thing he says incorrectly. Out of the 10 or so hours I've listened to him he must have done it 20-30 times. I'll have to post a few more examples.
    – Chrismo16
    Dec 1, 2014 at 23:08

2 Answers 2


The type of construction that the person is making a mistake on is usually called a free relative clause, which is a type of relative clause in English whose head-nominal is a wh-word instead of a regular noun. Your instructor is incorrectly assuming that free relative clauses have inversion, as content questions (where the questioned word is not the subject) do. This mistake is very common since for most English learners inversion is a difficult rule to master, and they tend to overapply it.

Main clause:

All the mac addresses of the switches are

Content question:

What are all the mac addresses of the switches?

Free relative clause:

...what all the mac addresses of the switches are.


I would write them differently.

It’s going to tell you the hostname of the device.

You wouldn't want to memorize the mac addresses of all the switches.

so if you wanted to change how often they are sending their messages...

  • Yes, that would be my approach as well.
    – Chrismo16
    Dec 5, 2014 at 23:09

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