I cannot grasp the sentence structure of this:

What incites my curiosity even further is how to we categorize appropriation in the case when Japanese people say that there is nothing offensive about an “appropriation”, that they are not victimized, but are, instead happy? (Source)

What makes me confused is the part of "how to". I understand the subject is What incites my curiosity even further, but why does "we categorize "come after "to", not a verb, just "categorize"?

Then it occurred to me that maybe I grasped the structure wrongly. Or is it just a mistake?

  • 2
    It's an error, possibly a typo.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:10
  • 2
    Sounds like the writer was debating "how do we categorize" and "how to categorize" and didn't clean up after making the decision.
    – remarkl
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:13
  • 3
    The article this is taken from is badly written and riddled with mistakes. Moreover, it liberally quotes Tweets that are themselves carelessly written. While I understand that it's sometimes necessary to read material that's badly written, I think that someone who is learning English should try to read high-quality, well-written material as much as possible. By reading good writing, you will develop a sense over time of what is correct and standard and what is not.
    – hguler
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


The original has some convoluted syntax a statement that slowly converts to a question. I suspect the sentence should read:

What incites my curiosity ... is how do we categorize appropriation...?

or even

What incites my curiosity ... is how we categorize appropriation... .

(where the latter is a statement of the thing that incites curiosity, rather than a question).

  • Even if it's meant to be a question, it should be "What incites my curiosity is the question of how we categorize appropriation." I don't believe it is ever correct in standard English to invert the subject and verb in an embedded question. See: ygdp.yale.edu/phenomena/inversion-embedded-questions.
    – hguler
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:09
  • Or how to categorize...
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:10
  • @hguler TRomano, yes to both. Probably better than mine.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:13
  • @hguler: When it's like the following it's grammatical (although informal): What incites my curiosity is, how do we ...? It's like What I want to know is, when's lunch?
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:14
  • @TRomano Unquote all those and I'm in.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 15:16

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