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the question is not ... but what...?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by darkwizard_magus, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. darkwizard_magus

    darkwizard_magus Junior Member

    Spanish
    Hello Wordreferencers =)
    I would like you to help me with the following sentence I wrote. It's for an essay, so it should be formal English. What I wonder if how I can insert the 'question' in the following sentence.

    My try:

    "The interesting question at this point is not what makes these characters distinct, but what do they share?"

    I thought it might be better to say:

    "The interesting question at this point is not what makes these characters distinct, but: what do they share?"

    Suggestions? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    For correct written English, you need to follow the rules for direct and indirect questions.
    For good style, the two questions, which are parallel, should be of the same type.

    For example, as a direct question: The interesting question is: "What do they share?"

    As an indirect question: The interesting question is what they share.
     
  3. perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I'd steer away from the colon, but I'd insert a "rather" in your first original.

    "The interesting question at this point is not what makes these characters distinct, but rather what do they share?"
     
  4. darkwizard_magus

    darkwizard_magus Junior Member

    Spanish
    Thank you both for your reply :). I'd rather keep the question mark in this case, so I'll use perpend's sentence.
     
  5. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    Sorry to be awkward, but that sentence does not follow the rules of correct written English.

    If you wish to be correct, you need to choose either the direct or the indirect form illustrated earlier, and for good style use the same form in both questions.
     
  6. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I'm with wandle. The question mark shouldn't be there, unless you phrase both questions as direct questions:
    That's a little expressive for my taste. I would suggest:
     
  7. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The simplest way:
    'The interesting question at this point is not what makes these characters distinct but what they share.'

    For better balance, you could say:
    'The interesting question at this point is not what makes these characters distinct but what they have in common.'
     
  8. perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I'm missing the question mark at some point. It seems dry/bland without one. Too many quotation marks makes it odd, but when there is none, and also no question mark, it seems bizarre, though likely technically correct. So, sorry if I've been misleading.

    I'm also missing the "rather", wandle. :eek:
     
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    The contrasted ideas seem sufficiently different not to need it.
     
  10. perpend Senior Member

    American English
    When I read "..., but what do they share?", I thought of "..., but what do they have in common?", which is against the point of the sentence.

    That's why I introduced "rather".
     
  11. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I don't follow. 'Share' and 'have in common' are effectively equivalent.
     
  12. perpend Senior Member

    American English
    Let me put it another way. ", ... but what do they share" could mean what do they use together, or what do they commonly use, or what do all of them use.

    Gosh, this is harder to explain than I thought.

    I am likely reading too much into it, but ", ... but what do they share" doesn't work for me, without the "rather". :)
     
  13. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    I see a straightforward contrast between the factors which are common to these characters and the factors which each possesses separately.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

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