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I would like to ask two questions about "free relative clauses" like the one shown in [1]. I am not a native speaker of English, but I feel that "what appears to be" in [1] acts as a hedge, expressing speaker's uncertainty about "no sense of reality". Is this intuition correct?

[1] Sue has what appears to be no sense of reality.

The second question is whether there is contrast between [2a] and [2b] in terms of grammaticality.

[2a] Sue has what appears to be no sense of reality and neither do I.
[2b] Sue has what appears to be no sense of reality and so do I.

The point behind this question is whether negative expressions such as "no" that are embedded in what looks like the relative clause ("what appears to be") can have scope over the matrix clause ("Sue has"). If "no" can have scope over the matrix, the sentence in question will be combined with a “neither”-tag as in [2a] but not with a “so”-tag as in [2b].

Thanks.

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As a native English speaker I would not use this construction; I would say "Sue appears to have no sense of reality". I have tried to think of an example of your original sentence form but without success. Expanding my construction would give "Sue appears to have no sense of reality, and neither do I", but this feels very strange since the statement about Sue's lack of a sense of reality is qualified by the word 'appears' whereas the statement about my lack of a sense of reality is definite. A better example of the expanded version would be "Sue does not appear to have a sense of reality, and neither do you."

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  • I think that the only comparable construction I'd use is "Sue doesn't seem to have a proper grasp on reality, and neither does her mother [seem to have a proper grasp on reality]." (I'm avoiding "I don't seem to have a proper grasp on reality" as being philosophically dubious, especially after pronouncing on someone else. Also, the ameliorating pragmatic usage of 'seem' seems less appropriate in the first person.) May 11 '17 at 9:04
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Regarding your first question, "what appears to be" is most definitely a hedge expressing some degree of uncertainty. Sue does not appear to have a sense of reality, but appearances sometimes lie.

As for the second question, ignoring the concerns brought up by BoldBen, as a native English speaker I would say that 2a is definitely more grammatical than 2b. This applies to more concrete statements as well: you'd also say "Sue does not have a smartphone, and neither do I."

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