Why

'Why' is a WH word, which is mainly used in question form. In this lesson, we will learn everything about this word.

How to Use "Why" in the English Grammar

Why is one of the WH-words with three functions that we will cover in this lesson.

1. 'Why' as an Interrogative Adverb

Use

Why as an interrogative adverb asks questions about the reason for something, gives suggestions, or expresses annoyance.
Take a look at the uses of why and some examples:

  • Why is used to ask about the reason for something. For example:

A : She was there because she was invited.

B : Why was she there?

  • Why is used to give suggestions. It is only used for the first and second person subjects. In this case, negation is needed. Look:

Why don’t I talk to her?

'I' is the first-person subject, and a negative verb has been used.

Why don’t you start working?

  • Why is used with a negative verb to show the annoyance or anger of the speaker. For example:

Why don’t they stop nagging?

Position in a Sentence

Why is used either alone or at the beginning of clauses. In the second case, an inversion is required.
How an inversion is made?

  1. The interrogative adverb comes at the beginning of a clause.
  2. The clause of reason is removed.
  3. The subject and the verb are inverted.

Tip

1. The subjects I and we are replaced with you in questions.
2. If there is a main verb in a sentence, a semi-auxiliary or an auxiliary verb is needed for interrogation.

For example:

A : We go to London because we are on holiday.

B : Why do you go to London?

Warning

Why is an interrogative adverb that can be used alone and shows emotions like surprise or anger. For example:

A : I went to Siberia.

B : Why?

2. 'Why' as a Relative Adverb

Use

Why as a relative adverb connects an independent clause to an adjective clause. Why heads the adjective clause that plays the role of an adjective for the noun 'reason' in the independent clause. Here is an example:

I would like to work at Google, the reason why I believe I could develop my skills.

The adjective clause 'why I believe I can develop my skills' modifies the noun 'reason.'

Position in a Sentence

Why as a relative adverb always comes at the beginning of the adjective clause. The adjective clause itself always follows the independent clause.
There is an example below:

That was one reason why I would like to be there.

'Why I would like to be there' always comes after the independent clause 'that was one reason.'

Tip

The relative adverb why is sometimes left out and 'that' is replaced. For example:

I would like to work at Google, the reason that I believe I could develop my skills.

3. 'Why' as a Nominal Relative Pronoun

Use

Why as a nominal relative pronoun connects a dependent clause to an independent one. The dependent clause which is introduced by why is called the nominal relative clause. The relative clause is nominal because it is either the object or the subject of the independent clause.
There is an example below:

I wonder why you are here.

'Why you are here' is the nominal relative clause and plays the role of an object for 'wonder.'

Position in a Sentence

Why as a relative pronoun always comes at the beginning of the relative clause.
For example:

I wonder why you are here.

'Why you are here' cannot be used before the independent clause.

Tip

Unlike when and where as relative pronouns, the nominal relative pronoun why is never followed by an infinitive.

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