Can we write like this: You should not keep in a doghouse a dog that is used to a steam - heated apartment?

The original sentence is: You should not keep a dog that is used to a steam - heated apartment in a doghouse. But this sentence sounds awkward because readers may interpret it as "apartment in a doghouse", rather than "a dog in a doghouse". If the prepositional phrase "in a doghouse" cannot be moved to between "keep" and "a dog", then how can we improve this sentence?

  • 1
    Nobody would interpret it as “apartment in a doghouse” unless they are deliberately looking for ludicrous alternative readings. Those people might choose to interpret the sentence as meaning that dogs accustomed to steam-heated apartments inside doghouses should not be kept—but no normal person would, because it's utter nonsense. You can move the prepositional phrase up before the object if you want, but it is significantly more clumsy than the original wording. Notes: 1) Hyphenated compounds like steam-heated should not have spaces. 2) Who on earth heats their apartment with steam?! Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 17:52
  • 1
    There are doubtless better examples, and situations where the disambiguation afforded by positioning the PP between verb and DO, though clunky, is less unacceptable than the ambiguity would be. Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


I would point you to George Orwell's 6 rules in "Politics and the English Language" especially the last one. The original sentence is fine in light of it. I would always follow "keep" with "a dog" in all of these constructs.

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.