A few example questions would be:

If you're not too busy, can you wash the dishes when you're done?

I don't think I can; can you wash them?

I've done them too many times this week, don't you think?

The first example has a (preposition?) that can't stand on its own as a complete sentence, and the last example adds a question that would be a fragment on its own, whereas the second example could be rephrased as two separate sentences and read mostly the same. The crux of my question is, if I may make an example of it in itself, are all or any of these sentence structures right or wrong, and should I be rephrasing them as separate sentences? Also, right or wrong, can you provide the terms for those parts of the questions and sentences so that I may better reference them in the future?

  • If it is incorrect to begin a question with some qualifying phrase or statement, then all the reporters asking "questions" in politicians' news conferences are doing it incorrectly!
    – GEdgar
    Apr 10, 2018 at 21:40
  • 1
    I am struggling to think of what possible domain you might be thinking they could be "incorrect" in. They are all completely grammatical, and utterly idiomatic
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 10, 2018 at 21:41
  • "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Perfectly fine. Apr 10, 2018 at 23:55
  • I'm sorry if the question seems simple, but I was having difficulty locating a good reference that could more specifically clarify the syntax rules with mixing questions and statements together in compound sentences so that I may extrapolate and utilize those rules in more complicated sentence structures. Lowell Montgomery provided a good reference for 'tag questions' which is helpful, and I have found some other references on my own regarding style guides when using a question as a subject in a sentence, but for other uses I've had difficulty finding more information on them.
    – Church
    Apr 11, 2018 at 0:02

1 Answer 1


Your first example is a common structure for a polite request structure, beginning with "If you're not too busy...". The word could might make it more polite than can, especially with a "please".

The second example feels a bit incorrect without context. I would use two sentences, or something like:

"I don't think I'll have time to wash the dishes before I have to go. Could you please wash them, if you have time?"

But to make something that feels correct with the semi-colon:

I don't think I can get to the dishes; could you wash them?

The third example is called a "tag question" and is perfectly correct. You may have noticed tag questions are used a lot by British speakers of English, right? ;-)

Wikipedia actually has a pretty good explanation of tag questions, but they tend to be separated by a comma at the end of a statement, like:

[…], isn't he?

[…], weren't you?

[…], aren't they?

[…], don't you think?

[…], isn't that right?

  • Thank you for the information on tag questions. I think I need to do some more reading on sentence structure rules for questions to fully grasp the syntax, but your answer was a good start.
    – Church
    Apr 10, 2018 at 23:22

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