Indirect questions

Indirect questions such as ‘The residents asked why the electricity had been cut’ or ‘The students asked what they should revise for the exam’ have the grammatical form of a statement; that is to say, there is no subject-verb inversion. Subject-verb inversion occurs only in direct questions. For example:

  • Why has the electricity been cut?
  • What should we revise for the exam?

However, it is not unusual to see indirect questions such as these in student writing:

  • The residents asked why had the electricity been cut.
  • The students asked what should they revise for the exam.

The word order in both sentences is incorrect. It is easy to make mistakes like these, so you should always check word order in indirect questions very carefully when proofreading your work before submission.