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Hello, everyone,

According to The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CaGEL),

1) "It doesn't matter what you say" is grammatical, but "It doesn't matter what to say" is ungrammatical as follows;

CaGEL, p.1264, 8.5 Interrogative infinitival clauses

While the distribution of non-interrogative infinitival clauses is very different from that of content clauses, this is not so with interrogatives. Interrogative infinitival complements are found in a large subset of the environments where interrogative content clauses are licensed. Compare, for example:

[29] i a. I don’t know whether I should go. b. I don’t know whether to go.

ii a. She decided what she would do. b. She decided what to do.

iii a. It doesn’t matter what you say. b.∗It doesn’t matter what to do.


However, I have seen following sentences;

2) WH-VP, Infinitive

a. [What to do in a case like this] is a real puzzle.

b. It's a real puzzle [what to do in a case like this].

https://www1.icsi.berkeley.edu/~kay/bcg/extrap.html

3) It is important how to solve the case.


My question is if the grammar rule that ‘interrogative infinitival can’t move to an extraposed subject’, explained in the above CaGEL is strict in every context or not. If so, the sentences 2)b, 3) will be incorrect ones.

Your kind explanation would be much appreciated.

+1

To me, (2b) is acceptable in informal language, whereas (3) is not possible. (3) would only be possible with a very clear pause, that would have to somehow be indicated in punctuation, indicating "how to solve the case" as an explanatory afterthought.

+1
deepcosmosthe grammar rule that ‘interrogative infinitival can’t move to an extraposed subject’, explained in the above CaGEL [discussion]

I'm lost. I don't see anything in what you quoted that has to do with an interrogative infinitival not being able to move to an extraposed subject.

From what little sense can be made from CGEL's twisted prose, I'm inclined to think they're saying — if they're saying anything at all about extraposed subjects — that an extraposed subject with a non-interrogative infinitival is the ungrammatical case.

Then there's the problem of what differentiates an interrogative clause from a non-interrogative clause (no matter whether they're infinitival or not). They can be ambiguous.

Your "real puzzle" examples do not show any contrast between content clauses and infinitival clauses, which was the main thrust of the CGEL quotation, so I don't see why those have become part of the discussion.

Here's how I might classify the sentences that you have quoted in your post. Note that even though you've found It is important how to solve the case somewhere, I don't accept it as grammatical.

Opinions may differ.

The print got squished and a lot of space was added in the image. Sorry about that. Emotion: smile

CJ

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Comments  

I've come across such an abstract on the Internet:

Abstract
In present-day English, a to-infinitival clause can be used after question
words such as how and where, as in Could you show me how to get to the station?/
No one told us where to meet. On the other hand, many grammars of English treat
why in this pattern as impossible or non-existent. However, why to-infinitival
clauses do occur in certain environments, as in Do questions of what, when and
why to eat in the morning have you feeling scrambled? After undertaking a corpus
study of why toinfinitival clauses, this article describes and explains the occur
rence and meaning of why to-infinitives, a rarely studied gap in the grammar of
English. The article then examines semantic constraints governing its acceptability
and claims that there are two kinds of why to-infinitival clauses. Finally, the article
considers some related expressions and the derivation of infinitival interrogatives.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
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CalifJimI'm lost. I don't see anything in what you quoted that has to do with an interrogative infinitival not being able to move to an extraposed subject.From what little sense can be made from CGEL's twisted prose, I'm inclined to think they're saying — if they're saying anything at all about extraposed subjects — that an extraposed subject with a non-interrogative infinitival is the ungrammatical case.Then there's the problem of what differentiates an interrogative clause from a non-interrogative clause (no matter whether they're infinitival or not). They can be ambiguous.Your "real puzzle" examples do not show any contrast between content clauses and infinitival clauses, which was the main thrust of the CGEL quotation, so I don't see why those have become part of the discussion.Here's how I might classify the sentences that you have quoted in your post. Note that even though you've found It is important how to solve the case somewhere, I don't accept it as grammatical.Opinions may differ.The print got squished and a lot of space was added in the image. Sorry about that.

Hi, CJ,

How can I thank you for such a wonderful explanation?

CalifJimThe print got squished and a lot of space was added in the image. Sorry about that. CJ

Is this better?

- AEmotion: stars

Ah. Leave it to the lady of many talents to figure that one out!

Yes, it's better. Where'd you get the de-squisher software? Emotion: smile

(You probably already know, but that started as a file from PAINT. Yes, I should have cropped it, but I didn't know how to de-squish.)


But back to the original question. Do you have any secret way of determining whether those clauses/phrases are "interrogative" or "non-interrogative"? Would you classify them as I have done? And do you have any interpretation of that CGEL explanation that makes more sense than we've been able to make of it on this thread so far? Sometimes I just don't get what point they're trying to make when I read CGEL. Emotion: sad

CJ

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deepcosmosHi, CJ, How can I thank you for such a wonderful explanation?

You already have, and you're very welcome.

It seems to me that that discussion in CGEL is trying to explain too many things at once, and that's mainly why it's so difficult to follow.

CJ

CalifJimYou already have, and you're very welcome.It seems to me that that discussion in CGEL is trying to explain too many things at once, and that's mainly why it's so difficult to follow.

Hi, CJ,

I thought the CGEL is difficult only to us, EFL learners, especially in the extra-ordinary terms and explanation style!!

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