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Embedded Statement

In Longman Dictionary of American English, a sentence reads: "This shows you which are the most important words to know." Shouldn't it read: "This shows you which the most important words are to know," for the auxiliary verb "Are" should be positioned immediately after the word "Words?"

Thank you in advance

Comments

  • The INVERSION of SUBJECT and the first part of the VERB is not usual in WH-CLAUSE when the clause is about a question — a so-called INDIRECT QUESTION. But it does happen — especially after the verb be.

    In this case, the choice is between
    This shows you which are the most important words to know. — with INVERSION
    and
    This shows you which the most important words to know are. — without INVERSION

    The choice with INVERSION has certain advantages

    • It puts the crucial phrase the most important words to know at the end of the sentence, which is good for emphasis
    • It avoids having that long and complicated phrase in the middle of the sentence, where there is less emphasis on the information.
    • It avoids a long delay before the verb of the clause are.

    In writing, I think the version with INVERSION is usually better. But when you're speaking you can make a long SUBJECT phrase sound emphatic and important by the way you say the words.

    The longer the phrase, the more it sounds better to use INVERSION. With a short SUBJECT phrase we can use both
    This shows you what is the word.
    or
    This shows you what the word is.

    With a subject as short as the word, I think the version without INVERSION usually sounds better.

  • edited August 2018

    I highly appreciate you informative elucidation, sir. It makes sense to me now.

    Some linguists said the auxiliary verb Are emphasizes certain parts in the sentence if placed differently:

    "This shows you which the most important words are to know" (= "To know" is emphasized here), "This shows you which the most important words to know are" (= The sentence is normal), and, "This shows you which are the most important words to know" (= "The most important words to know" is emphasized here). Is this true?

    I've never known that inversion can do that!! I'd really appreciate you if you gave me a reference that provides me with all the cases of sentence inversion.

    @DavidCrosbie

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