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I'm from Korea, a non-English speaking country.

I recently had my mid-term on English.

In the test, there was a question asking us to put words in order and make them into a full sentence. The sentence was slightly changed from its original version on the test paper. The original sentence was:

  1. "We could say appearance was important to men in the past and it certainly is to men in the present."

The changed version was without "certainly", like below:

  1. "We could say appearance was important to men in the past and it is to men in the present."

Instead I wrote:

  1. "We could say appearance was important to men in the past and to men in the present it is."

for my answer.

I know this sentence (#3) is a bit awkward, but I believe quite much that this sentence is not grammatically totally wrong. Is it?

I used inversion to give extra emphasis on the last part of the sentence. Could it be wrong to place "to men in the present" in such order in the sentence?

Please, please help me. I am so, sooo worried now. No one could help me in my off-line, Korean world.

*Just for notice, the question required us to use only the given phrases, not to add any other additional words to clarify the meaning.

  • 1
    Agree with you, Yoda would. – Tushar Raj May 9 '15 at 16:54
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    Thank you for the useful context for your request. Both of the statements with and without certainly are grammatically correct, because they consist of full clauses. The one you wrote is ungrammatical because there is no predicate in the second clause following the auxiliary is. Verb phrases cannot just be moved around like they were adverbs. As it is, fronting the experiencer to men in the present means that you have to replace it with some diaper to cover up a naked unstressed is at the end. ..it is equally important/even more important/certainly important, etc. – John Lawler May 9 '15 at 16:57
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    Notice that in #2 that the word "important" is missing but seems to be understood and recoverable: "and it is (important) to men in the present". In #3, when you fronted an element which left the "is" stranded at the end like that, it seems to cause a problem. This problem is because either the word "important" doesn't seem to be recoverable, or else even if it was recoverable, it still won't make much sense in that sentence. This is because your type of of fronting, as used in your example, usually involves some contrast with what was said earlier, and often that contrast is needed. (cont.) – F.E. May 9 '15 at 18:20
  • (cont.) For example: "We could say appearance was important to men in the past, and to men in the present it is essential"; while the one with no contrast doesn't seem to really work: "We could say appearance was important to men in the past, and to men in the present it is important". – F.E. May 9 '15 at 18:20
  • Please consider my non-native condition.. I want a strictly grammatical judgment. Is the sentence wrong? – Seilin Lim May 10 '15 at 8:49
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Linguistically speaking, English is primarily an SVO language. (Subject-Verb-Object)

There might be cases the verb comes last, but this isn't one of them.

Your second part was SOV.(Subject-Object-Verb: Appearence-men-is) I wouldn't bet on it being grammatical.

(My native Hindi is SOV, as is your Korean, according to wikipedia. Maybe that caused the confusion.)

The thing is, to a native speaker, the emphasis on the is is apparent here:

"We could say appearance was important to men in the past and it IS to men in the present.

So your attempt for emphasis was misguided.

As for the second case, a native speaker would expect a word after is so the verb doesn't come last:

We could say appearance was important to men in the past and to men in the present it is (essential)

[Wikipedia]

EDIT: John Lawler has spoken. It's ungrammatical like I said. And his word is, you know, The Law.

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Yes. The sentence as written is awkward (it does not sound like something a native speaker would say), but there is nothing that is strictly incorrect about its grammar.

I also think that, in whichever of the two ways you write it, you need to include the word too. And is probably meant to be as. It would also help to include a comma after past.

e.g. We could say appearance was important to men in the past, as it is to men in the present too.

  • As the words were given, I had no choice to add words to the original sentence.only allowed to put given words in order but thanks anyway! – Seilin Lim May 9 '15 at 16:01
  • I agree. I'd add "also": "We could say appearance was important to men in the past and to men in the present it is, also." I'm not sure why the extra word is needed, but I think there is something wrong with leaving "is" at the end, where it must have some stress. Instead of the "also", you could add "still". (If that doesn't answer the test question, sorry.) – Greg Lee May 9 '15 at 16:47
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    @GregLee Of course it may not be relevant to the OP's needs, but there are more succinct ways of saying this. e.g. We could say that appearance was as important to men in the past as it is nowadays. – WS2 May 10 '15 at 11:55
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Your sentence is grammatical but does not sound native without vocal emphasis, such as on WAS in the first part and on IS in the last part. English has several varying methods of creating emphasis, inversion being one of them, though not really common. It is used most often, probably, in poetry.

  • Hi JEM, welcome to ELU! We value answers that make use of examples and references. Could you provide some more detail with your answer? – Adam May 14 '15 at 22:17

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