I strongly need someone's help to solve this problem of grammaticality:

I have to say why these examples are ungrammatical.

  • Which book did you make the suggestion that the children should read?
  • Which book did you make the suggestion that the children should keep?

In relation to this, we have the grammatical counterparts.

  • Which book did the children read?
  • Which book did the children keep?

I am blocked because I think it is not a problem of subjacency, since it is only one bounding node being crossed (book). Maybe it is a problem of the type of verb, or maybe it deals with the issue of the relative clause [that the children should read].

  • I'm voting to close as off-topic for the following reasons: 1) I don't see anything really wrong with the examples, except the fact that they're all clumsy, 2) You seem to be asking more than 1 question here and all of them are difficult to understand, 3) The question as it is seems to be too localized -- is this for a school assignment or something?
    – Frantisek
    Jan 4, 2012 at 10:00
  • 2
    I agree it looks as if the OP is seeking help with an assignment, but I think it should remain open, at least for a little longer. My first thought was that the sentences were indeed ungrammatical, but now I'm not so sure. I'd like to see if @JohnLawler has anything to say on the matter. Jan 4, 2012 at 10:18
  • @BarrieEngland: I think what's wrong with the first example is that in "Which book did you make the suggestion" it's wrong to start with which book and follow with the suggestion. I think the proper way of saying it like that would be: "Which book did you suggest the children should read?" The way it is now it wants to be parsed like "When did you make the suggestion" or "how did you make the suggestion", therefore with "which (...) suggestion" it's wrong to use "which BOOK (...) suggestion." Would you agree with me?
    – Frantisek
    Jan 4, 2012 at 10:24
  • @RiMMERΨ Ψ: I agree that 'Which book did you suggest the children should read?' is a clearer sentence, but I'm not sure which rule of English grammar the longer one violates, if any. Jan 4, 2012 at 10:29
  • 1
    If the OP knows what "subjacency" means, they should also know that this is not a term used here. Ask this question in Linguistics Stack Exchange for an answer that will explain why the first two sentences are wrong using "subjacency". We could only tell you here that they violate the Complex Noun Phrase Constraint from Ross 1967. Jan 4, 2012 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


Which book did you make the suggestion that the children should read? means the same as Which book did you suggest that the children should read? However, the longer version requires make to have two uncoordinated direct objects, one being the suggestion, the other, which book. English grammar doesn’t allow that.

  • Upvoting, obviously.
    – Frantisek
    Jan 4, 2012 at 10:40
  • 1
    I don't find either sentence ungrammatical though I see your point about the structure of the main clause. Thinking about it.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 4, 2012 at 11:06
  • Yes, it is a doubt about a bigger school assignment, I am not asking here for someone to solve the whole assignment, but to explain a doubt that blocks me and does not allow me to continue. Syntactically speaking, this example is ungrammatical as I explained in the previous post, I think it is not related to subjacency because I have already proved that it is OK in this terms. Thus, investigating further now I am thinking that it deals with a problem of that trace filter... but I am not sure.
    – Lucrecia
    Jan 4, 2012 at 11:44
  • What's an uncoordinated object? I'd really appreciate any links, because I can see those two sentences are wrong but can't figure out why.
    – Pitarou
    Jan 4, 2012 at 11:57
  • In the sentence Which book did you send the children to get? the word book is a direct object of the verb get, and not send, and it sounds perfectly grammatical to me. I don't like either of the examples given, but I don't buy your reasoning for why the sentence is ungrammatical. Jan 4, 2012 at 12:19

This is a long convoluted sentence, so it makes things easier if you turn it down to simpler things.

? Which book did you make the suggestion that the children should read?

It might go two ways:

You made the suggestion that the children should read a book.


You made the suggestion for/of a book that the children should read.

The latter sounds to me like the correct interpretation: a suggestion was made about a book (which the children should read).

So I find the better full question is where the 'wh-' placeholder is for 'suggest for' not 'read'. So the better sounding questino would be:

For which book did you make the suggestion that the children should read?


Which book did you make the suggestion for that the children should read?

(but if you're making convoluted sentences like that the phrase-final preposition is probably stylistically unwanted).

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