Grammar question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by PinkLily, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. PinkLily

    PinkLily Companion

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    Nov 18, 2008

    How do you properly punctuate a sentence that starts with 'I wonder...' ? I always thought that these sentences ended with a period, but all my students think that they should put a question mark. Now I'm beginning to second guess myself. So, which sentence is correct?

    I wonder who's right. or I wonder who's right?
     
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  3. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 18, 2008

    I don't see why either wouldn't be all right. In that example, the interrogative pronoun would better lend itself to a question mark, but it's not the subject of the sentence so either would be fine. It depends upon what 'wonder' is supposed to mean in a particular context.

    e.g.
    Would someone tell me who's right?
    I'm thinking about who's right.
    Really? You wonder who's right?
    Really, you don't have to wonder who's right.
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Nov 18, 2008

    You're right. If you say I wonder if it will rain today, you are making are doing something, namely wondering. It is a statemtent about what you are doing. On the other hand, if you say "Will it rain today?" you are asking a question.
     
  5. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Nov 18, 2008

    If a sentence begins with "I wonder ..." it is declarative, requiring a period.

    However, if it begins with "I wonder: " or "I wonder; " then it is interrogatory, and would get a question mark. In this case, the colon or semicolon acts as a period, followed by a complete sentence (question) that could stand alone.

    Examples:
    Declarative: "I wonder what we can do to help."

    Interrogatory: "I wonder; what can we do to help?"

    At least that is what I was taught many, many moons ago ...
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Nov 18, 2008

    That's a better explanation, teacherstudent1.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 18, 2008

    In American English, a clause that begins "I wonder" is properly a statement, as mmswm noted, not a question. Some varieties of British English handle this differently - that could show a bit of French influence, perhaps.
     
  8. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Nov 18, 2008

    And then there is the creative writing aspect...

    Novelists have more freedom with punctuation. If your students are older and can understand "breaking writing rules on purpose" teach them the difference. If not, follow the interrogative rule.

    As an ELA 11 and 12 teacher I would rather unteach and explain why than break bad habits. Drivers learn that rules of the road are different in different situations as we become more experienced...
     
  9. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 18, 2008


    Not necessarily. You could say 'Is that so? I wonder; nothing seems to work'. It's all a matter of context. A sentence like 'That's the best you can do? / . / !' could end with one of three punctuation marks depending upon context and meaning. The same goes for any sentence with wonder.
     
  10. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Nov 19, 2008

    That's true. I suppose I need to clarify a bit.

    In that example, "nothing seems to work" could stand alone as a statement, not a question, so it would require a period.
    If the phrase was "does nothing seem to work?" then it would get a question mark.

    It depends on the form of the sentence following the colon or semicolon.
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 19, 2008

    In the case you cite, teacherstudent1, what matters is not the presence of I wonder and the colon but the fact that what follows is itself a question. One could substitute practically anything (well, anything that has to do with thought or observation) before the colon with the same result:

    Fancy that: nothing seems to work.
    Fancy that: does nothing seem to work?

    This car is a total shambles: nothing seems to work.
    This car is a total shambles: does nothing seem to work?
     
  12. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Nov 19, 2008

    Very true. I guess that is the point; when any sentence includes a colon or semicolon, it is the nature of the sentence that follows that determines the punctuation.

    If the sentence is simply "I wonder ...." (without colon or semicolon), the it is declarative. Unless you are screaming it, I suppose ...
     
  13. PinkLily

    PinkLily Companion

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    Nov 19, 2008

    Thanks for all the responses. I've found an answer, but I don't think that my little guys will understand any of these explanations. Since I teach third grade, and they don't use semi-colons, I'm just going to tell them to end 'I wonder...' sentences with a period. We have already discussed the difference between a statement and a question, so they should understand that when they say 'I wonder...' they are telling us what they are wondering, not asking us.
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 19, 2008

    That sounds just about right, PinkLily.
     
  15. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 19, 2008

    You can turn just about any statement that ends with a period into a question by replacing the period with a question mark and changing the voice intonation when it's spoken.
     

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