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We're in the middle of a historical time. Two creatures will be separated from each other. Waffles will be torn in two. Meta Stack Overflow will be split.

This banner is currently being shown on Meta Stack Overflow and on Stack Overflow itself:

enter image description here

The MSO/MSE Split is soon underway. Please bear with us while this is completed.

The first sentence caught my eye, specifically the last few words: "is soon underway". I'm not sure this is grammatically correct - my internal "something-isn't-right" meter doesn't like it. If I had to guess I'd say it should read "is underway soon", but that doesn't sound quite right either.

I can't put a finger on what, exactly, is wrong with the sentence, nor what should be done to fix it. Can anyone explain this to me?

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11  
I'd say will be underway soon. –  hichris123 Apr 16 at 22:59
20  
It'd be a real shame if someone's user account was "lost" as part of the move... –  Nick Craver Apr 16 at 23:57
    
My internal "something-isn't-right" meter doesn't like it either. –  starsplusplus Apr 17 at 13:28
    
No less so than "The Olympic opening ceremony is happening tomorrow". Although 'tomorrow' is definite, 'soon' is indefinite. –  smci Apr 17 at 18:21
    
I read this as simply "... is soon to be underway", with "to be" elided. Seems OK. –  Jez Apr 22 at 23:51

8 Answers 8

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I would say:

The MSO/MSE split will soon be underway. Please bear with us while this is completed.

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2  
will soon be underway, sure. will be soon underway has the same nails-on-chalkboard wrongness that the current phrase has. –  Chris Apr 16 at 23:15

The problem is that the word is means "the current state of the thing". It implies temporal information -- now, this instant. It conflicts with the rest of the sentence's meaning.

What is the MSO/MSE split? It's underway.

... But it's not underway now. It will be underway soon. So, it's not underway.

The verb's tense/meaning conflicts with the adjective being used. I think the sentence is still technically grammatical -- it just feels odd because of the construction.

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I'm sorry. I had to sign up just to say it. You say it's ungrammatical because is means "the current state of the thing". But then you have a sentence where you use is (in contracted form) to indicate something that's not "the current state". "It's underway soon" = "It is underway soon", unless you have some other word that you believe has been contracted there –  Damien_The_Unbeliever Apr 17 at 13:43
1  
@Damien_The_Unbeliever I think you missed the point of me saying "It's underway soon." I was saying that that's not valid, logically speaking. That's the entire point. Also, I explicitly say that it IS in fact a grammatical construction -- just one that "feels odd" due to the conflicting temporal information. –  Jeff Gohlke Apr 17 at 13:49
    
I'll edit it, in case anyone else gets confused. –  Jeff Gohlke Apr 17 at 14:05
    
I was going to +1 this until I got to the last sentence. The present-tense verb is should not be referring to the future status soon underway. –  Andrew Leach Apr 17 at 14:14
    
@AndrewLeach But it is a grammatical sentence, because the adjective soon modifies the word underway and isn't a direct reflection on the verb's tense. –  Jeff Gohlke Apr 17 at 14:17

A form that seems to flow better, to me, is "The [split] is happening soon. Please bear..."

This has the added benefit of still making sense when you replace 'soon' with 'right now'.

(as suggested by @badp)

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1  
(warning: rapidly flashing gif behind the link) –  badp Apr 16 at 23:06

Apart from the fact that the present tense is is perhaps awkward with the future-deictic adverb soon, as commented on in Jeff’s answer, there is a different, more semantic clash going on:

Being underway means that something is not yet here, but it is being worked on, and it is therefore on the way and will be here at some as yet undisclosed time in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

Now, arguably, if you're going to implement a change like this, the work that enables you to say that the change is underway really already starts as soon as it has been definitively decided that the change should and will be implemented (unless you're in the public sector where you'd decide this and then do nothing about it for five years until your department is merged into another department that deals with something completely unrelated to your department and the plans are acrapped altogether, of course).

So it doesn't really make sense to say that the split is (or will be) underway soon—the very fact that this message has been put up is part of the process leading up to the split, which ipso facto means that the split is already underway.

If I were to fix the notice, I would either swap soon underway with coming soon, or I'd just leave out soon altogether and say that the split is underway.

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According to “Google NGram Viewer”, soon underway is used almost 4 times more often than underway soon or soon be underway.

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But you chopped the y-axis labels showing absolute frequency... can you edit them in? –  smci Apr 17 at 18:22
    
@smci I fixed it. –  Austin Henley Apr 17 at 18:38
    
“soon underway” can be used in a past tense which doesn't have the same problem as the present tense in this sentence. For example the first 20 hits on Google Books are all part of “was soon underway” or “were soon underway”. You aren't explicitly drawing a conclusion about the data, but what I get is that “is soon underway” is wrong (because nobody seems to use it), which is the opposite of your implicit conclusion that it's all right because it's common. –  Gilles Apr 18 at 12:37
    
Regarding Google's NGram results, if a million people say a stupid thing, it still is a stupid thing... –  Arden Weiss Apr 23 at 8:41

In addition to "will soon be underway", "is soon to be underway" works.

The problem is the disconnect between "is" (present tense) and "soon" (future aspect), which goes away with either of the above constructs ("will" is future tense and "to be" allows for the future aspect reading).

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The problem is that they are already working on the split now, so it is already underway. For me it should read:

The MSO/MSE Split is underway and will be soon done/here/whatevers.

Not a native speaker though.

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It sounds to me as if the "is" is not the present tense as much as the narrative present. It is less common than (but as valid as) the narrative past tense. It is often used also to describe 'how things are' - general rules or laws of nature or history or society. The sentence

*Ultimatums are exchanged, and declarations of war soon follow*

would be in the narrative present. So your sentence would be OK, I think, if it were part of such a story.

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