But what Greece lacks, it makes up ....

ipipip

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese普通话

But what
Greece lacks in permanent memorials it makes up for in coffee-shop conversations
Source: After 36 Years, Town Sifts Through Suspicions on a Fatal Fire
Source: Article in The New York Times

But what = though ? But what is a conjunction, right?
I don't know why there are two verbs.
But what(=though) Greece lacks in permanent memorials, it makes up for in coffee-shop conversations.
Right?

<<Second question needs its own thread.>>


Thanks a lot.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'But' is just the ordinary word introducing the whole sentence. We can ignore it. The sentence could be written beginning with 'what', and would have the same meaning: 'What Greece lacks in permanent memorials it makes up for in coffee-shop conversations.'

    The 'what'-phrase has been brought to the front for emphasis (or focus). The basic idea could be expressed with a noun phrase in middle position:

    Greece makes up for its lack of permanent memorials in coffee-shop conversations.

    That is, it lacks memorials, but it makes up for this by having coffee-shop conversations. ('By' is perhaps a more natural word here than 'in', but 'in' is okay.) Instead of simply 'its lack of permanent memorials' it talks about 'what it lacks in permanent memorials', where 'what' indicates a variable or uncertain amount: however much it lacks them. But here, it doesn't really have a strong meaning of uncertainty, it's just a way of saying the same thing, and you can put it at the front. Though it's now at the front, it's still the object of 'for': the coffee-shop conversations make up for what it lacks in permanent memorials.

    I'm not sure whether I've explained this clearly.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    It's not "but what" - it's "But what Greece lacks in permanent memorials it makes up for in coffee-shop conversations."

    But
    Greece makes up in coffee-shop conversations for what it lacks in permanent conversations.


    Cross-posted with eb.
     

    ipipip

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese普通话
    Thank you. I understand.

    But, I guess it is a grammatical error.

    If let me say, when Object is ahead of Subject, the sentence must be a exclamatory sentence, such as, what a cute kitty she is!

    However, in other type of sentence can it works? Can I find it in grammar books?
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    The sentence is grammatically correct, and it is not an exclamatory sentence. It is simply an inverted structure.

    More traditionally stated, it could read:

    "In coffee-shop conversations, Greece makes up for what it lacks in permanent memorials."
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    A noun phrase (NP) can be put at the front if it is emphasized. A simpler example is: 'This one I like.' The words 'this one' are stressed, and there is an implied contrast "I don't like some of the other ones". In your sentence, the NP 'what it lacks in permanent memorials' is being contrasted with the conversations, the things it does have, so it is natural to put it at the front.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top