# What It Is We Have To Do?

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These poll figures alone should be enough for all Conservatives to understand what it is we have to do.

I wonder how to analyse the complement what it is we have to do in the non-finite clause to understand what it is we have to do.

Is what it is we have to do a subordinate interrogative clause? (I think it is.)

Is what a fronted fused-head (of the NP) in that subordinate interrogative clause? (I think it is. I see it in the NP what we have to do. I take it from the declarative it is what we have to do/it is that which we have to do.)

fold navy 285Is what it is we have to do a subordinate interrogative clause?

Right. Interrogative content clause, if you want.

fold navy 285Is what a fronted fused-head (of the NP) in that subordinate interrogative clause?

It's the inversion of a cleft construction to form a question, followed by the reverse inversion to make it an indirect question (interrogative content clause). See below.

I suppose you could analyze it by pulling in that "fused-head" idea, but that leaves the two components (this ... that) separated, so I don't know what kind of reasoning the experts might use to justify the idea that separated components are fused.

We have to do this. (statement)
It is this that we have to do. (statement as cleft)
What is it that we have to do? (question)
what it is that we have to do (indirect question)

Now we can omit 'that' and say there's a contact relative here:

what it is ___ we have to do

We've omitted 'that', not moved it. So I see nothing fused up to this point. That is, I don't see

what-that it is we have to do ~ that-which it is we have to do

It seems to me that if anything is fused, it's the 'it', which paraphrases as 'the thing'.

what it is that we have to do
< what the thing is that we have to do
< what the thing that we have to do is
< what [it-that we have to do] is

analogous to something like "what the problem is".

In short, I don't see the initial 'what' as containing the omitted 'that', but others may see it that way.

CJ

These poll figures alone should be enough for all Conservatives to understand what it is we have to do.

Yes: the underlined element is a subordinate interrogative clause (indirect question), functioning as complement of the verb "understand.

Internally, "what" functions as a preposed complement of "is". Notice that there is no subject-auxiliary inversion.

The meaning is:

"These poll figures alone should be enough for all Conservatives to understand the answer to the question 'What is it (that) we have to do?'"

You can't treat "what" as a fused head, since that would make what it is we have to do a fused relative construction, which it isn't. It's an interrogative.