Which of the following is correct?

  • Something we can do is investigate the effects of...
  • Something we can do is investigating the effects of...

I would say it's the first, but based on intuition rather than on grammar - someone I'm writing a text with thinks it's the second.

Can someone explain more formally which form is correct?


Some more context:

As actual costs are unknown, we cannot test if our model is successful on this basis. Something we can do, however, is investigate the consistency of our model over time. Although the structure...

These are the opening sentences of a paragraph.

  • 4
    You have used do in the main clause, so what follows must be the complement of do, which requires an infinitive (i.e, He did eat it is OK, but *He did eating it is ungrammatical). Since investigate is an infinitive and investigating is not an infinitive, the first one is correct and the second isn't. (I bet it's the same in Nederlandse). – John Lawler Mar 22 '17 at 16:50
  • 1
    @JohnLawler: Interesting, because intuitively I would have said it should be infinitive because you would say "we can investigate". Thanks for your explanation. In Dutch in this case the forms are actually indistinguishable so I can't tell which I would need :) – Sam van Herwaarden Mar 22 '17 at 16:53
  • 2
    The sentence is a special construction called a "Cleft" sentence. This one uses something, others use it or what. It's basically one transformation of However, we can investigate the consistency ... Others might start One thing we can do or What we can do. The do is gets inserted by the transformation; it's an infinitive because can requires an infinitive. Like do. – John Lawler Mar 22 '17 at 17:22
  • 1
    When you insert however, the commas become helpful because of the insertion, not because one or two would be needed otherwise. – Yosef Baskin Mar 22 '17 at 17:44
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    You are right. "Something we can do" is a noun phrase headed by "something" with the relative clause "we can do" as modifier. The infinitival clause "(to) investigate the effects of ..." is predicative complement of "be" in its specifying sense. The object of "do" is missing, but is understood as "something". Your other example with "investigating" is ungrammatical. – BillJ Mar 22 '17 at 18:35

"Investigate" would be right in this sentence. This may not be the conventional way of doing it, but what I usually do in this situation is, strip the first verb "do" and the unnecessary word, like "something" (I'm doing it in this sentence right here, stripping off the "what" and "do"). Your sentence then reads:

We can ---- the effects of..

and the right word there would be "investigate" and not "investigating"

My sentence "what I usually do in this situation is, strip the first part of the verb and the unnecessary word" when stripped, would read:

I usually ---- the first verb..

and the right word here would be "strip" and not "stripping"


Investigating or in the other word second one, because we need a noun form after is,and one of the noun making ways is adding ing.

  • It seems the answers in the comments disagree with you. But thanks for your response! – Sam van Herwaarden Mar 23 '17 at 13:36

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