To what conclusion can we come?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Yana Khachaturova, Jan 11, 2019 at 6:25 AM.

  1. Yana Khachaturova

    Yana Khachaturova Senior Member

    Russian-Armenian
    I think that the second option is correct although I have heard a lot of people saying the first sentence
    To what conclusion can we come?
    What conclusion can we come to?
     
  2. LVRBC Senior Member

    English-US, standard and medical
    Both are correct. The 1st is formally grammatical; the 2nd is idiomatic. The grammar rule you are thinking of is the one about ending a sentence with a preposition, not the split infinitive rule.
     
  3. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    "What conclusion can we come to?" is the natural word order.

    The other order is acceptable, but in AE it sounds old-fashioned or formal. It may be more common in BE. And it may be normal in lectures by college professors.
     
  4. It isn't.
     
  5. Yana Khachaturova

    Yana Khachaturova Senior Member

    Russian-Armenian
    What do you mean?
     
  6. dojibear said 'The other order is acceptable, but in AE it sounds old-fashioned or formal. It may be more common in BE.'

    It's not more common in BE (British English) so I said 'It isn't (more common)'.
     
  7. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    An example of a violation of the split-infinitive "rule" :rolleyes: would be "To eternally discusss the split-infinitive 'rule' is boring and fruitless." As LVRBC says, 'split infinitive' refers to putting an adverb between "to"and the verb.

    Addendum: that said, I prefer "not to do" to "to not do".
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 7:46 PM
  8. AnythingGoes Senior Member

    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
  9. coiffe

    coiffe Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    It's not.
     
  10. papakapp Senior Member

    English - NW US
    If you are really curious, you could read Mencken, H.L. 1921. The American Language
    Mencken belabors this point a great deal. Actually, he belabors all his points a great deal. But he does it in an entertaining way.
    In fact, if I'm not mistaken, I believe that book is where the legendary quip "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." was popularized.
     
  11. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I don't like either one. Why not "What conclusion can we reach?"?
     
  13. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    My answer refers only to grammar; I'll leave usage to others.

    As far as grammar is concerned, they are both grammatically correct. If you've heard people use both sentences, then that means both constructions are available for use. In actuality, these constructions are just variations of each other.

    The non-question version of your sentences is this: We can come to what conclusion. Two things stand out in this version: (1) the idiom come to, which is inchoative in nature; it signals a change, from what was being discussed to a "conclusion;" (2) the prepositional phrase "to + what conclusion" (to + noun phrase: i.e., to what conclusion ~ to a fair conclusion). So, "come to" and "to + what conclusion" naturally go together, sort of like:

    We can [come [to] what conclusion]

    In forming a question, we do subject-auxiliary inversion and move the "wh-word" to the front; since "what" forms a noun phrase with "conclusion," both shift to the front:

    What conclusion can we come to?

    And since "to" is part of the prepositional phrase "to what conclusion," we can shift "to" to the front as well:

    To what conclusion can we come?

    That's grammar. As isolated sentences, without any context, I don't know which one I would use, or if I would go with something else (see Forero's post). Moreover, I don't know exactly how you can determine which of the two is more or less acceptable/formal/idiomatic/etc., so I'll leave that to others.
     
  14. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    Re your #13, I don't think we'd say the non-question (affirmative) sentence "We can come to what conclusion." At any rate, it doesn't sound natural or logical to me.
     
  15. grassy

    grassy Senior Member

    Warsaw
    Polish
    It's totally wrong. :eek:


    cross posted
     
  16. coiffe

    coiffe Senior Member

    USA
    American English
    The process of fronting the preposition aside, Yana should understand that although the first sentence is perfectly excellent and was in fact the correct choice about fifty years ago, almost nobody in America would say that nowadays, other than students trying to impress their teachers that they understand grammar and they know they should never end a sentence with a preposition; or teachers teaching grammar. Most native speakers in the US will say the second sentence -- "What conclusion can we come to?" You'll hear it everywhere from the most illiterate to the most highly educated native speakers of English in the US.
     
  17. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    No, I'm not suggesting that we'd say the non-question affirmative sentence; I'm only showing that the question has a non-question version, which helps you see how things line up and the movement involved in question formation. I mean, the "what" at the front of the question doesn't just appear out of the blue; it gets there via movement.
     
  18. grassy

    grassy Senior Member

    Warsaw
    Polish
    How can the what move anywhere if we've agreed it doesn't even belong where you put it? :rolleyes:
     
  19. Yana Khachaturova

    Yana Khachaturova Senior Member

    Russian-Armenian

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