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I have a sentence here:

“I don’t understand why you like birds.”

Upon analyzing the sentence structure, there is what appears to be a relative clause:

“why you like birds”

Is this then a complex sentence because this is a dependent clause? What part of speech is “why” in this situation?

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    "Why you like birds" is not a relative clause but a subordinate interrogative clause (embedded question) functioning as complement of "understand". It's a complex sentence, where "why" is an adverb.
    – BillJ
    Mar 10, 2022 at 7:31
  • The comment should be an answer.
    – Xanne
    Mar 19, 2022 at 6:03

1 Answer 1

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I don’t understand [why you like birds].

The expression "why you like birds" is not a relative clause but a subordinate interrogative clause (embedded question) functioning as complement of "understand". Yes, it is a complex sentence in which "why" is an adverb.

It cannot be a relative clause because there is no antecedent, i.e. "reason", for "why", and "why" does not occur in 'fused' relatives, the kind where the antecedent and the relative word are fused together into a single word.

The meaning is:

"I don't understand the answer to the question 'Why do you like birds?'"

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