Hi all

"Which is my seat?" asked Hana

A. Hana asked which (one) was her seat.

B. Hana asked which seat was hers.

C. Hana asked which her seat was.

Actually I'm completely convinced that sentences A & B are correct, but what about sentence C ? It really surprised me when I found out that Michael Swan, in his "PEU", had accepted it. I can, semantically, absorb such a form with other question words such as "where"____ (Hana asked where her seat was.) But I think the case with "which" is different. The question word "WHICH" needs to be followed by a noun to make sense. That's to say, in direct speech "which (one) is my seat". Here, in direct speech, the noun "ONE" is optional because it's already understood from the context. But In indirect speech, it should be "Hana asked which (one) was her seat" or "Hana asked which one her seat was". But is it OK to say (Hana asked which her seat was)? 

Thank you very much

Original Post

Hi, Mr. Abudllah Mahrouse,

Abdullah Mahrouse posted:
Here, in direct speech, the noun "ONE" is optional because it's already understood from the context. But is it OK to say (Hana asked which her seat was)? 

Thank you very much

Grammatically speaking, sentence (C) is grammatically correct because, as you know, when we report questions constructed with who/what/which + be + complement, 'BE' can be put before or after the complement. As for the necessity of using 'one' in (C), I think it isn't a must to mention 'one' in (C), just as it isn't necessary in (A).

 

Hi, Abdullah,

The question word "WHICH" needs to be followed by a noun to make sense.

Not necessarily. "which" can be, and usually is, an interrogative pronoun. To turn a question with which, what or who into the reported speech, the best way to decide the order of words is to imagine what the answer will be.

If the question is:

- Which is your seat?

the answer is more likely to be:

- This is my seat.

than:

- My seat is this.

This shows that "which" is the subject, not the subject complement, in both the direct and the embedded or indirect question, so the usual word order will be (A).

I know you are speaking about the structure in indirect speech, Abdullah, and my recommendation is to think about the direct question and the answer to it to decide whether the wh-word is the subject or the subject complement of the question. If it is the subject, there will no inversion; if it is the subject complement, there will be inversion.

My point is that (A) (the most usual of the three, in my opinion), (B) and (C) are all grammatical and will be respectively used according to the type of direct question being asked. I hope you have understood that "which" can stand alone and does not need the pronoun "one" after it if it works (as is possible) as an interrogative pronoun rather than as an interrogative determiner. That said, let's see the possible direct questions for these reported versions:

A. Hana asked which was her seat.

This comes from: A'. 'Which is my seat?,' Hana asked. To which the usher possibly answered: A''. 'This is your seat, madam.' or A'''. 'The one over there is your seat,  madam.'

As you can see, "which" is replaced with the subject "this" or the subject "the one over there" in the answers, and is therefore the subject of the question, so no inversion is required when the question is reported.

B. Hana asked which seat was hers.

This comes from: B'. 'Which seat is mine?,' Hana asked. To which the usher must have answered: B". 'This/That seat is yours, madam.'

In (B), "which seat" is the subject of the question (therefore, no inversion), as mirrored by "This/That seat" (also the subject) in the answer.

And now we get to the most unusual and complicated one:

C. Hana asked which her seat was.

For this reported question to work, we have to imagine a direct question (and an answer) where the word or phrase answering "which" is the subject complement (thus requiring inversion). As you know, in reported speech we sometimes simplify longer texts (for example, I'm very sorry for being so late can be reported as He apologized for his delay/late arrival). I think (C) has to be the reported version of a question in which "which of or among different seats" is implied:

C': 'Sir, I'm confused. Is my seat this one here or the one over there?'

In this question, "my seat" is the subject and "this one here or the one over there" is the subject complement. If we want to reflect this in reported speech, we can use (C), where "her seat" is the subject and "which" asks about the subject complement (therefore, we have inversion). A possible answer could be:

C''. 'Your seat is the one over there.'

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