meaning - help with the verb "is"

20
2014-04
  • Kareem

    My friend told me about auxiliary (is); we are using is after what in questions like "What is his name?" and 'why there is' questions like "What season is it?".

    The main question is when to put is after what and when to put is after season and why ?

  • Answers
  • snailboat

    In English, an interrogative clause is marked by subject-auxiliary inversion (SAI), a process in which a subject and auxiliary verb switch places.

    1. Declarative clause (subject and auxiliary in basic position):

      His namesubject isauxiliary Bobpredicative complement .

    2. Interrogative clause (subject and auxiliary inverted):

      Isauxiliary his namesubject Bobpredicative complement ?

    A typical question takes the form of an interrogative clause. An interrogative clause may or may not contain an interrogative phrase, a phrase which contains a wh-word such as what, who, when, where, why, or how. This phrase may contain additional words, as in how many or what season.

    When an interrogative clause contains an interrogative phrase that is not in subject position, it is typically fronted. This means it's moved to the front of the clause:

     1. His name is Bob.
     2. His name is what?
     3. whati his name is ____i
     4. Whati is his name ____i ?

    In 2, what is a predicative complement; when we move it to the front of the clause, it leaves behind a gap which cannot be filled. In 3 and 4, the wh-word is understood as if it were in the gap, even though it doesn't actually occupy that position. (I've marked both the gap and the wh-word with the index i to indicate that they refer to the same thing.)

    In 3, we have a wh-relative clause. It could be used as part of a larger sentence, but it's not a complete sentence itself, so I didn't capitalize it or put punctuation at the end. In 4, because the subject and auxiliary have switched places, we have an interrogative clause--a complete sentence and a question. This gives us the first of the sentences you asked about.


    We can arrive at your other sentence by starting with a different declarative sentence:

      5. It is winter.
      6. It is what season?.
      7. what seasoni it is ____i
      8. What seasoni is it ____i ?

    The only difference here is that the interrogative phrase isn't just a wh-word by itself--it's the entire phrase what season. Again, 7 is not a complete sentence; 8 is our complete question, and it's also the second sentence you asked about.


    It's important to note that we don't do SAI or fronting when the interrogative phrase is in subject position:

      9. She is hungry.
      10. Who is hungry?

    In this example, our interrogative phrase is who. Because it's the subject, its basic position is at the beginning of the clause, so it doesn't need to be fronted. And because we have an interrogative phrase in subject position, we don't do subject-auxiliary inversion. So 10 is a complete question, no fronting or SAI necessary.


    Of course, you can't do subject-auxiliary version without an auxiliary verb. Be is (always) an auxiliary, so we didn't need to add one in the examples above. But what if we don't have one? In that case, we add the dummy auxiliary do:

      11. She likes pizza.
      12. She does like pizza?
      13. Does she like pizza?

    In this example, we didn't have an interrogative phrase, so we didn't need to front it. But we did need to swap the subject and auxiliary, so we inserted the dummy auxiliary do in 12. (We call it a "dummy" because it has no meaning whatsoever; we're only inserting it to allow SAI to happen.) This gives us example 13, our complete question.


    The sentences in examples 2 and 6 are declarative clauses, but they're being used as questions. This is possible because intonation overrides grammatical structure; they're spoken with rising intonation at the end, which is indicated in print with a question mark. This sort of question is allowed only under limited (usually informal) circumstances, for example when the speaker is expressing incredulity, or when the speaker is prompting their conversation partner to repeat themselves. You may also find these sentences in the context of extended questioning, as on a game show or before a court.

    Outside such limited circumstances, the sentences in examples 2 and 6 are inappropriate and should be avoided.


  • Related Question

    meaning - "What can I be of help"
  • kiamlaluno

    In a forum of a website, I read the following sentences (the writer is referring to a session in a conference):

    Makes lots of sense. Not sure what can I be of help (and I already have two sessions on the official schedule), but would be happy to be of help.

    Is it correct to say what can I be of help?
    Is it commonly used? Is it used in restricted groups?


  • Related Answers
  • Guffa

    The sentences contains some quirks, and a lot of references are omitted.

    Sense is not quantifiable, so the variation a lot of sense feels more natural and is more commonly used than lots of sense.

    The expression isn't what can I be of help but rather what I can do to help or how I can be of help.

    I fleshed out the sentences so that they read like written language:

    That makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure what I can do to be of help (and I already have two sessions on the official schedule), but I would be happy to be of help.

  • Henry

    Better to say How can I be of help? or What can I help with? (yes I know there is a preposition at the end), or even more simply How can I help?

  • fortunate1

    or Not sure what I can do to be of help. The original reads as though the writer was in a hurry, and so employed faulty grammar.

  • Jimi Oke

    I read what can I be of help as a possible contraction of in what way can I be of help. Regardless of what the writer means, however, the construction can I is incongruous here, as is it usually used in the interrogative sense. Thus, it should be I can.

    Summary of possible options for this context:

    • [In] what [way] I can be of help
    • how I can be of help
    • when I can be of help (the writer points to scheduling obligations)