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I am writing a sentence whose word order and punctuation has put me in a fix. Can I get some opinions on whether the construction is correct, grammatically?

Ask him what becomes of the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated on the show after the show ends and he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners.

The main problem I have with the sentence is that it a) doesn't sound natural and b) is too long, without any pause. If you could point out the mistakes or, better yet, improve the phrasing, I'd be very grateful.

Thanks.

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Kris, user66974, TimLymington, Chenmunka Sep 16 '14 at 10:32

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    Does he rehabilitate dogs on the show, or does he just make the claim on the show that he has rehabilitated them? Either way, if the context makes it clear that one of those options is what he claims to do, the ‘on the show’ is unnecessary clutter. Get rid of that, and the sentence reads just fine to me. “Ask him what becomes of the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated once the show ends and he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners”—quite a well-balanced and well-structured sentence, I’d say—and definitely not unmanageably long. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '14 at 21:03
  • Well, then, since the context of the sentence is the end of the show, it’s obvious where he rehabilitated the dogs. Therefore, on the show is unnecessary. You could even get rid of the entire relative clause he claims to have rehabilitated, since context will make it perfectly clear what dogs you’re talking about. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '14 at 21:13
  • No, he rehabilitates dogs ON the show. Therefore, I thought it was an important modifying element and could not be left out. Please correct me if I am wrong, but, in your corrected sentence "the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated once the show ends", it seems as if he rehabilitates the dogs AFTER the show ends, whereas it was originally meant to ask, 'ask him that when the show gets over, what happens to the dogs he trained on the show". Sorry for the confusion. – axomna Sep 15 '14 at 21:20
  • I think this question is proofreading, and saying "I think my sentence is too long" doesn't constitute "clearly identifying a source of concern" in this context. – FumbleFingers Sep 15 '14 at 21:21
  • @axomna No, it cannot be taken to mean ‘the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated once the show ends’. Firstly because the show hasn’t ended, so the perfect aspect of the verb doesn’t fit (“In the future, I have done it”); and secondly because if you incorporate that bit into the relative clause, you end up with an ungrammatical sentence: “What happens to the dogs […] and he leaves them …” is not grammatical. It must be read as “[the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated] [once the show ends and he leaves them]”. Like I said, though, you can just say “the dogs” and leave it at that. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '14 at 21:24
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Ask him what becomes of the dogs. He claims to have rehabilitated them on the show. But after the show ends, he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners.

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I don't think the sentence is excessively long, but you could reduce the ambiguity by moving one of its elements to the front:

After the show ends, ask him what becomes of the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated on the show and he leaves them again in the hands of their ignorant owners.

You could also simplify the "leaves them in the hands" part:

After the show ends, ask him what becomes of the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated on the show and they {go back / are returned} to their ignorant owners.

If, as Sven Yargs suggests, the emphasis of "after the show ends" is on what happens when the pets are returned to their owners, rather than on the timing of the question to be put to the show's star, it might be better to break out the long preceding phrase that defines which dogs the speaker is talking about:

Ask him what becomes of the dogs — the ones he claims to have rehabilitated on the show — after the show ends and he {leaves them in the hands of / returns them to} their ignorant owners.

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    The speaker of the example sentence may be advising the listener to ask the question right now, not after the show is over. In other words, "after the show ends" may attach to the timing of the relinquishment of the pets to their owners, not to the timing of the question to be put to the show's star. In that case, you might do better to break out the long preceding phrase that defines which dogs the speaker is talking about: "Ask him what becomes of the dogs—the ones he claims to have rehabilitated on the show—after the show ends and he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners." – Sven Yargs Sep 15 '14 at 22:24
  • @SvenYargs - Good point. If you turn that into an official answer I'll upvote it. – Erik Kowal Sep 15 '14 at 22:27
  • Counteroffer: Tack something to the same effect to your answer (which makes some valid points of its own), and I'll upvote it. (Are we allowed to negotiate like this?) – Sven Yargs Sep 15 '14 at 22:30
  • @SvenYargs - Done. And thanks for your suggestion. :) – Erik Kowal Sep 15 '14 at 22:46
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Hmmm. This is a tough one. What do you think of breaking it down to a couple of shorter sentences, like so: "Ask him- what becomes of those dogs? The ones he claims to have rehabilitated on the show? What happens to them once the show is over? Once they're back with their ignorant owners?"

  • That’s hardly an improvement—quite the opposite. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '14 at 21:14
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The original sentence is OK. I would either add a comma:

Ask him what becomes of the dogs he claims to have rehabilitated on the show, after the show ends and he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners.

Or I might rephrase it:

Ask him, if he claims to have rehabilitated these dogs on the show, what becomes of them after the show ends and he leaves them in the hands of their ignorant owners.

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