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    #1

    that-clause or why-clause?

    Dear Teachers,
    Please read the following question:
    What made the professor puzzled was ____________ fewer and fewer students came to his lecture.
    A. why B.how C.that D.whether
    The reference answer is A. I think A is right, but C is right too.
    Maybe A is more logical, the professor was puzzled about the reason. but I think we can say a person is puzzled about a fact(phenomenon).
    So, is C absolutely right or just barely acceptable?
    I am looking forward to your help. Thanks a million.
    yours,
    Japanjapan

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    #2

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by japanjapan View Post
    What made the professor puzzled was ____________ fewer and fewer students came to his lecture.
    A. why B.how C.that D.whether
    The reference answer is A. I think A is right, Yes but C is right too.
    Maybe A is more logical, the professor was puzzled about the reason. but I think we can say a person is puzzled about a fact(phenomenon).
    So, is C absolutely right Yes (or just barely acceptable)?
    D is also (just about) possible if there were so many students that it would not be easy to see, initially at least, if numbers were falling. I have to say that this would be very unlikely.

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    #3

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by japanjapan View Post
    Dear Teachers,
    Please read the following question:
    What made the professor puzzled was ____________ fewer and fewer students came to his lecture.
    A. why B.how C.that D.whether
    The reference answer is A. I think A is right, but C is right too.
    Maybe A is more logical, the professor was puzzled about the reason. but I think we can say a person is puzzled about a fact(phenomenon).
    So, is C absolutely right or just barely acceptable?
    I am looking forward to your help. Thanks a million.
    yours,
    Japanjapan
    I am not a teacher.

    I put in "that" before I read the choices. I think "why" is perfectly possible, many people would say that, but it may be a little loose grammatically, and it was the phenomenon that made him puzzled, not the question. "That" is the best answer, the way I see it.

  2. Soup's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Hello japanjapan,


    Only
    choice A is possible.


    The professor was puzzled because he didn't know the reason for the fact that fewer and fewer students came to his lectures. In other words, he knew the fact (they stopped attending) but he didn't know why they had stopped.


    A. What made him puzzled was why fewer and fewer students came.
    The reason for the fact that fewer and fewer students came made him puzzled.
    C. What made him puzzled was that fewer and fewer students came.
    The fact that
    fewer and fewer students came made him puzzled.


    The fact (students stopped attending his lectures) did not puzzle the professor, as he already knew they weren't attending. What puzzled the professor was the reason for that fact, why they stopped attending (choice A).


    Choice C (that) is possible if elliptical for the reason for the fact that, but not the best answer since it is also elliptical for the reason that. Ambiguity is the reason choice C is not the best answer.


    Only choice A is possible:


    What made the professor puzzled was _______ fewer and fewer students came to his lecture.


    A. why
    B. how
    C. that ambiguous
    D. whether

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    #5

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Soup View Post

    A. What made him puzzled was why fewer and fewer students came.
    The reason for the fact that fewer and fewer students came made him puzzled.
    C. What made him puzzled was that fewer and fewer students came.
    The fact that fewer and fewer students came made him puzzled.


    The fact (students stopped attending his lectures) did not puzzle the professor, as he already knew they weren't attending. What puzzled the professor was the reason for that fact, why they stopped attending (choice A).


    Choice C (that) is possible if elliptical for the reason for the fact that, but not the best answer since it is also elliptical for the reason that. Ambiguity is the reason choice C is not the best answer.

    Who agrees with this argument?
    Do you think of "puzzled" in the same way as soup?

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    #6

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Khosro View Post
    Who agrees with this argument?
    Do you think of "puzzled" in the same way as soup?
    I'd say that both "that' and "why" are possible.

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    #7

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    I agree with bhaisahab, and I would also accept 'how', which sounds more American to my ears. But there is no good reason not to accept 'that'. 'why' here is a pronoun over 'the reason why' I couldn't accept 'whether'.

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    #8

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bide View Post
    I couldn't accept 'whether'.
    I did say that I thought it was very unlikely. Since then, I tried 'puzzled whether' in both COCA and BNC and found only one example - and that was the verb in the active voice.

    Absence from the corpora does not prove it cannot be used, but it does suggest very strongly that learners should not use it. If it is possible, it is rare.

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    #9

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    I changed my mind there: The prof is short-sighted and half deaf, he can't hear the students chatter, and the rear part of the lecture room is an unseen mystery to him from behind his thick bifocals.

    What made him puzzled was whether fewer and fewer students came to his lectures. That works for me!

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    #10

    Re: that-clause or why-clause?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bide View Post
    I changed my mind there: The prof is short-sighted and half deaf, he can't hear the students chatter, and the rear part of the lecture room is an unseen mystery to him from behind his thick bifocals.

    What made him puzzled was whether fewer and fewer students came to his lectures. That works for me!
    It does for me, too. However, as I suggested earlier, this sort of situation is quite unlikely.

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