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  1. engee30's Avatar
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    #31

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    That's the thing, Charlie Bernstein - there is no rule you could go by and say that it is incorrect.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #32

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    In Why tell lies?, there is no subject noun, yet it's correct to say and write like that.
    That's a different type of structure. All of the pseudo-questions we've been discussing include an infinitive.
    "Why to tell lies?" is the equivalent. A native speaker would not say this.

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    #33

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    That's a different type of structure. All of the pseudo-questions we've been discussing include an infinitive.
    "Why to tell lies?" is the equivalent. A native speaker would not say this.
    How come?
    I am not a teacher.

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    #34

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Of course that's one way of understanding this. The phrase How to speak English well does not necessarily imply a question, just a way of doing.

    I mean, if I make a video entitled How To Fix A Puncture, it's because I want to show a way to do it. There doesn't have to be a question first, does there?
    Yes, but that's an entirely different construction; it's not even a sentence - just a title or something similar. In the example I commented on, "How to speak English well" is a subordinate interrogative clause functioning as the subject of the sentence. It doesn't directly ask a question, but rather serves to express one. The main clause equivalent would be something like: How does one speak English well?

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    #35

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Here's another example of an infinitival interrogative clause beginning with "how" where this time it is the complement of a preposition:

    Frequently readers request advice [on how to establish a good lawn].

    That sentence means: "Frequently readers request advice on the answer to the question 'how does one establish a good lawn?'"
    Last edited by PaulMatthews; 26-Apr-2016 at 12:23.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #36

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulMatthews View Post
    Yes, but that's an entirely different construction; it's not even a sentence - just a title or something similar. In the example I commented on, "How to speak English well" is a subordinate interrogative clause functioning as the subject of the sentence.
    Okay. So if How To Fix A Puncture is not a sentence, it doesn't make sense to call it a clause. Is that right? If so, is there any way of describing it grammatically?

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    #37

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    I don't think analysing titles is productive when trying to establish the rules of grammar. To me, that 'string' has the potential to be a subordinate infinitival clause in some larger and grammatically complete construction.

    How would you describe it grammatically?
    Last edited by PaulMatthews; 26-Apr-2016 at 13:50.

  8. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #38

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    How come?
    Because it doesn't make sense.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  9. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #39

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulMatthews View Post
    I don't think analysing titles is productive when trying to establish the rules of grammar. To me, that 'string' has the potential to be a subordinate infinitival clause in some larger and grammatically complete construction.

    How would you describe it grammatically?
    Right. That's what I said on the first page of the thread. To start a sentence that is a question, it can be a noun phrase.

    But in the example the poster gave, it isn't. So it doesn't make sense.

    Titles do not have to be sentences. But if a title has a question mark, that automatically makes it a sentence. But a sentence without a subject noun is incorrect.

    So the title How to learn English is fine, but the title How to learn English? is not.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #40

    Re: I thought I couldn't start a question using how to

    I'm losing track here of who said what and to whom!!

    The only point I'm making is that in examples like How to speak English well is the topic of almost all the questions posted here, the subject "how to speak English" is not actually a noun phrase, but a subordinate interrogative clause.

    In other words, subordinate non-finite clauses can be subjects.

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