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    • Join Date: Sep 2007
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    #1

    Question Which is correct?

    Would you be kind enough to let me know
    which of the following expressions is more acceptable in English?

    Who do you think will be the next president?
    Who do you think the next president will be?

    Also compare the following pair please.
    Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?
    Who do you think the next President of the United States will be?
    Last edited by Dolomite; 01-Sep-2007 at 08:30. Reason: to know if the length of the complements or subjects affects the word order

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    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #2

    Re: Which is correct?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolomite View Post
    Would you be kind enough to let me know
    which of the following expressions is more acceptable in English?

    Who do you think will be the next president?
    Who do you think the next president will be?

    Also compare the following pair please.
    Who do you think will be the next President of the United States?
    Who do you think the next President of the United States will be?
    Who do you think the next president will be?-correct
    Who do you think the next President of the United States will be?[/QUOTE]-correct

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
    #3

    Re: Which is correct?

    Welcome, Dolomite.

    All are OK, I agree. They differ though. In [1b] who is the subject of will be, whereas in [2b] who is a subject complement:

    [1a] Who / do you think / will be the next president?
    [1b]I think who will be the next president

    [2a] Who / do you think / the next president will be?
    [2b] I think the next president will be who


    The same holds true for the other two examples. Who has been moved out of the subject position in [3] and out of the subject complement position in [4]:

    [3] Who / do you think / (WHO) will be the next President of the United States?

    [4] Who / do you think / the next President of the United States will be (WHO)?

    Note that, clauses are boundaries and the more words that a WH-word moves across results in a more complex parsing pattern for the reader / speaker. So, according to some people, the closer the WH-words is to its original position, the better.

    #1
    Statement
    You think that Sam will be ...
    Question
    You think that who will be ... ?
    Who do you think will be .... ?

    Here the WH-word who replaced the noun Sam and moved out of a that-clause to the front of the construct, and it's only a few words away from its original position. Notice the word that isn't possible in the question example:

    Ex: Who do you think that will be ...

    The reason it doesn't work, that functions as a conjunction, not as a subject, so its presence above doesn't fit the grammar. A conjunction joins two like forms, but in our example, who do you think and will be are different, so that can't conjoin them.

    In our second example, however, the conjunction that is possible:

    #2
    Statement
    You think that the next president will be Sam.
    Question
    You think that the next president will be who?
    Who do you think (that) the next president will be?

    Notice also that who moved out of the that-clause, just like in our first example (#1), but the amount of words it crossed is significantly greater. Moreover, in our first example who only had to passed one verb, think, whereas in our second example (#2), who passed over two verbs, will be and think, leaving its verb stranded at the end of the sentence. That's a problem, for some.

    In short, some people feel that leaving a copular verb stranded (i.e., without its subject complement) at the end of a sentence is not necessarily ungrammatical, but more so that it's in poor style because it violates the structure's integrity (#2), whereas others think it's perfectly acceptable to leave the verb stranded, especially if its subject complement can be traced, found in the sentence (#2).

    So you see, both #1 and #2 are acceptable.

    You be the judge.
    Last edited by Casiopea; 01-Sep-2007 at 17:30.

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