From the movie 'Wanted':

We don't know how far the ripples of our decisions go. We kill one, and maybe save a thousand. That's the code of the Fraternity. That's what we believe in, and that's why we do it.

Here, what is clearly a fused relative word.

That's what we believe in means "That's the thing which we believe in."

Similarly, that's why we do it also means "that's the reason why we do it" or "that's the reason we do it."

But CaGEL* seems to say 'why' here is an interrogative word. For example, CaGEL says (Page 1077, FN 19):

Why (which has no counterpart in ·ever) appears freely in the interrogative construction, as in This is why I’m leaving, but is marginally possible in the pseudo-cleft: Why I’m leaving is that/because there’s no opportunity to use any initiative. It does not occur elsewhere in fused relatives.

[Emphasis in bold is mind.]

Does this mean why in 'Wanted' is not a fused relative word but an interrogative word?

*The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston & Pullum

  • 1
    Re: "Here, what is clearly a fused relative word": I'm not sure it's so clear. You say that it can be replaced with the thing that; but it could also be replaced with what it is that. – ruakh May 4 '18 at 8:31
  • 1
    @JK2 It sounds even more strange if you lose the contractions on "That's": "That is what it is that we believe in." Is that even right? – Zebrafish Nov 5 '18 at 8:32
  • 1
    @JK2 I take it that since there's only one comment made by neither of us two, you must be referring to ruakh's comment as being stupid. A higher level of respect for other users is expected. Also, my comment was emphasising your point that "The latter sounds very awkward to my ears". The real thing I see being sad here is your attitude. – Zebrafish Nov 5 '18 at 12:37
  • 1
    @JK2 Comments are not disallowed from being related to a previous comment. My comment was related to yours in the specific sense that it illustrated just how strange the sentence in question sounds if you remove the contraction from "That's". It's a comment that not only supports but strengthens your claim that it sounds strange. You may not care for my comment, but I should be able to make it without you responding that it's sad or that ruakh's comment is "stupid". You're the only person being rude here. – Zebrafish Nov 5 '18 at 13:24
  • "that's why we do it" is the same structure as: that's why we do it, that's when we do it, that's how we do it, that's where we do it, and frankly: I do not see how "This is why I’m leaving" can be an interrogative construction... Interrogative constructions would be: Is that why you are leaving? – Lambie Nov 12 '18 at 15:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.