I know subordinate questions have no inversion. Should this sentence:

"Do you know what are the good things to do around here?"


  1. "Do you know what the good things are to do around here?"

MS Word's grammar check gives me,

  1. "Do you know what the good things to do around here are?"

But at least to my ear, the first seems the one most commonly said. Is the first one wrong? Which one is the best?

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    I'd be surprised if any of those are commonly said. In conversation, one would say, "What is there to do around here?" You don't need to ask whether the person you're addressing knows. If he doesn't, he'll say so. You don't need to ask for good things. Outside of Catch 22, nobody asks for boring things to do. – deadrat Jun 24 '15 at 8:31
  1. Do you know what the good things are [to do around here]?"
  2. Do you know what the good things to do around here are?"

The Original Poster's second example (#2 above) might be considered to be the canonical version of the sentence. This is the version where all the phrases are in their normal positions. The embedded interrogative clause in the sentence is this section here:

  • what the good things to do around here are.

Let's analyse the grammatical relations here. The verb in this subordinate clause is the word are. This verb has a Complement, the word what and a Subject, the noun phrase:

  • the good things to do around here

We can portray the clause like this:

  • [what] [the good things to do around here] [are]

This is the structure we would expect to see for an embedded question like this. The wh--word has been moved to the front of the clause, and the Subject and the verb appear in their normal order.

However, this sentence is a bit unwieldy. The reason is that it has a very long Subject and a very small verb phrase. When we get sentences like this in English, we often use extraposition from noun phrase movement. This just means that we can move part of the noun phrase from its normal position and put it at the end of the clause. Here the head noun in the noun phrase is the word things. Everything that occurs after the word things is POSTMODIFYING the noun. It is these postmodifying phrases that we can move to the end of the clause. In this case the postmodifying phrase is to do around here. If we put this phrase at the end of the clause we get the Original Poster's sentence (#1):

  • Do you know what the good things are [to do around here]?"

The Original Poster is correct that this is the most natural of the two sentences. The subject in the first sentence is just too long, considering the very short verb phrase.

Here are some more examples of extrapositions from noun phrases:

  • An inspector arrived from Customs and Excise. (extraposition)
  • An inspector from Customs and Excise arrived. (canonical sentence)
  • The day came when he was old enough to leave home. (extraposition)
  • The day when he was old enough to leave home came. (canonical sentence)
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    @F.E. You seen this?. Almost closed ...Grrr – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 24 '15 at 14:57
  • What about the very first sentence, the unnumbered one - Don't people speak in that form? Hasn't that form gotten the kind of general acceptance other grammatical mistakes have, such as the use of "like" as a conjunction, for everyday use? – Kaimei Nishimoto Jun 25 '15 at 10:10
  • @KaimeiNishimoto Yes, it has, kind of, but you have to use a special intonation to pull it off. If you're a learner you need to learn to get the one without the inversion off pat. It one of the common errors that marks out Upper Int kind of speakers from Advanced/Proficiency ones. It's quite a marked kind of usage, and no native speakers use it in preference to the non-inverted forms. It's very much a once in a while usage only. Also not ok in formal writing. :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 25 '15 at 10:14
  • @KaimeiNishimoto You may find this post by F.E. useful! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 25 '15 at 10:16

'Do you know?'-is an interrogative sentence. So automatically the subordinate clause attached to it be a statement and 'wh' word be used as an interrogative adjective with subject verb pattern;the rest is uniquely explained by qualified Araucaria.

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