here I am again.

I do know about How + adverbs or adjectives (e.g.: How tall is he?, how handsome is he?, how deep is the river?..); however, I'd like to know three little things,

First: What is this rule's name? If there is one. (The grammar topic which talks about it);

Second: Is "How + adverbs or adjectives" always complements of the verb? E.g.: How deep is the river? - It is 100 feet deep - 100 feet deep is the complement of the verb Is, since it's a linking verb; therefore, How deep" means = "100 feet deep" which is the complement, so, is it the complement being placed in the beginning?

Thirdy: Could I say: Is it how deep? If not, why? What rule talks about placing the adverb in the beginning of the sentence?

  • 'How awesome is it / that [?]' can hardly be anything but rhetorical, synonymous with 'It's awesome!' Feb 21, 2017 at 1:26
  • @EdwinAshworth - Although this isn't what my question is focused on, I will change this example
    – A.Cool
    Feb 21, 2017 at 2:03
  • 1
    The Wikipedia article on English determiners addresses your first question. / '100 feet deep' is a measure phrase + adjective; these are discussed at Measure phrases as modifiers of adjectives - Recherches ... rlv.revues.org/pdf/1401 by R Schwarzschild. Here, they are indeed complements. / Only in a very marked way for emphasis. You can call this the 'start with the wh-word rule' (but I wouldn't). Feb 21, 2017 at 11:01

1 Answer 1


All these sentences (How tall is he?, how handsome is he?, how deep is the river?) are example of interrogative sentences. The word order is: how (question word) + adv/adj + verb + subject. These same sentences can be made exclamatory sentences by changing the pattern: how + adv/adj + subject + verb.

The verb 'is'( verb be ) is a linking verb and the adjectives 'tall', 'handsome' and 'deep' are subject complements. There are no verb complements, so there are no adverbs here.

'How deep is the river?' - 'It (the river) is 100 feet deep'. The phrase '100 feet' modifies the adjective 'deep' and thus becomes an adverbial. But still the phrase '100 feet deep' complements the subject 'the river'.

"Is it how deep?" is meaningless and grammatically wrong. It should be either Is it deep? or How deep is it?, if an interrogative sentence is intended; or, How deep it is!, if an exclamation sentence is intended.

  • So, the main rule for interrogative adverbs is: They always come in the beginning of the sentence, right?
    – A.Cool
    Feb 22, 2017 at 0:28
  • @Haseo No: "I didn't know how tall he was". They are usually - but not always - fronted to the beginning of the clause NOT the sentence. Feb 22, 2017 at 14:36
  • @Araucaria - But in your example, how tall he was is a noun clause, not an interrogative wh-question. How tall he was doesn't matter - Noun Clause How tall was he? - Interrogative WH-Question
    – A.Cool
    Feb 22, 2017 at 15:03
  • @Haseo That's the problem if you use terms like "noun clause". If you believe in such things then you need to know that so-called "noun clauses" can be declarative clauses, interrogative clauses, exclamative clauses and so forth. In your particular case your question is about interrogative clauses. In just about every grammar of English "how tall he was" is an interrogative clause in my example (when not given an exclamative interpretation). Feb 22, 2017 at 15:08
  • @Araucaria - I do believe in "noun clauses" since it is listed in the main gramamr rules of clauses. There is a very simple way to differ interrogative adverbs from noun clauses: Noun clauses always take the normal construction: Adverb + Subject + Predicate, whereas Interrogative wh-questions are always phrased in the question construction: Adverb + Verb + Subject + Predicate. Also, noun clauses can only be used with transitive verbs.
    – A.Cool
    Feb 22, 2017 at 15:53

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