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Is the following phrase grammatically right? "When Twitter shows a notification, what are the reasons that its decision to open itself automatically or not is based on?"

This question is probably banal to most of you, but I'm Italian and I think this phrase has something strange, isn't it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The sentence has a lot of embedding. We can make better sense of it by abstracting out one or more complex parts of the sentence. I have put brackets around one complex phrase that forms a single unit:

What are the reasons that [its decision to open itself automatically or not] is based on?

This could be abstracted to:

What are the reasons that X is based on?

The above sentence could be put another way to be clearer, but have essentially the same meaning:

What reasons is X based on?

As you can see, the sentence is grammatical and parse-able. However, you are right in thinking it is an awkward sentence; it is written in a confusing way, even for native speakers.

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Thanks very much –  Jefffrey Jan 9 '11 at 17:36

The phrase is clumsy and unclear, but I wouldn't say it's actually incorrect. A better rendering might be:

What are the factors that Twitter takes into account when deciding whether to open itself automatically on showing a notification?

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Yep, I did reformulated it in the same way. +1 –  Jefffrey Jan 9 '11 at 17:38

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