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quote:
This is a special case. To my native ears, only (2) is correct.


Could it be, David, that this is because "the matter" does not make a good subject, and is close in meaning to "wrong"?

Would the same word order apply in a reported question if "the problem" were used instead of "the matter"?

To my non-native ears (Smile), we tend to use "the problem" in affirmative order if there is a real problem and the phrase is used alone: "My mother asked me what the problem was," while we use "the problem" after the verb "be" if it is followed by "with X," in which case it can be paraphrased as "wrong": "My mother asked me what was the problem with me. Do you agree?
Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
quote:
Could it be, David, that this is because "the matter" does not make a good subject, and is close in meaning to "wrong"?
"What's the matter?" is an idiom and needs to be kept in its idiomatic sequence, even in embedded questions. Even if we dropped "with me," we'd use (2), not (1), if the intended meaning was the idiomatic meaning.
quote:
we use "the problem" after the verb "be" if it is followed by "with X," in which case it can be paraphrased as "wrong": "My mother asked me what was the problem with me. Do you agree?
Native speakers would use "My mother asked me what the problem was with me." In that sentence, "was" is naturally stressed, the sentence trailing off at "with me." From Google Books:
    "asked what was the problem with": 2
    "asked what the problem was with": 349

    "ask what was the problem with": 0
    "ask what the problem was with": 65

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