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In a blog, I read the following sentence:

The two men Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

I can only understand that it says something about two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk, but I feel that the sentence looks weird. Is it grammatical or not? What can we write in simple language for this sentence?

Can I write above sentence in the following way?

Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

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17  
It's grammatical, but it's a garden path sentence – Colin Fine Mar 23 at 11:45
    
Please use descriptive titles. Thanks. :) – TIPS Mar 23 at 12:36
1  
It grammatically correct but awkward. Your rephrasing is clearer. – Bob Jarvis Mar 23 at 18:01
    
This sentence is a travesty. – Azor-Ahai Mar 24 at 4:17
    
The first sentence is correct but awkward. The rephrasing is easier to parse, but it has slightly different emphasis. The first sentence draws attention to the identity of the victims (The two men [who were killed] were A.V. and I.K., with the rest of the sentence providing additional information) while the second feels like it stresses the crime itself (The crime Savchenko was convicted of was [...], again with some extra information). – CompuChip Mar 24 at 15:02

The sentence is difficult to parse because it has a long relative clause with no wh-word. In addition, the relative clause has an extra phrase in the middle. It may help to think about the sentence like this:

  • The two men were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

Now we may not know who these two men are. We could use a relative clause to explain this:

  • The two men [who Savenko was convicted of helping to kill] were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

This relative clause has a gap at the end. We understand the gap as referring to the two men. So the sentence can be modeled like this:

  • The two men [who Savenko was convicted of helping to kill them] were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

We might want to give some extra information about Savenko. For example we could show that he was an Iraq war veteran:

  • The two men who Savenko [an Iraq war veteran] was convicted of helping to kill were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

In the Original example, the word who is missing. This is because we don't need to use who if it is not the Subject of the relative clause.

The Original Poster's second question

Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The sentence above gives us the same information as the original example. However, the information is arranged in a different way. In the original text, it sounds as if they already told us that Savachenko was convicted of killing two men. If we used the Original Poster's (OP's) sentence in this situation it would sound a bit odd. Compare these two pairs of sentences.

  • Savenko was convicted yesterday of helping to kill two men. Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

  • Savenko was convicted yesterday of helping to kill two men. The two men who Savenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The second pair is better, because it makes the two men from the first sentence into the Subject of the second sentence. We like to organise our writing like this. In the first pair of sentences, the second sentence seems to be too similar to the fist one.

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6  
Should the actual steps include "whom" instead of "who"? e.g. The two men [whom Savenko was convicted of helping to kill] were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk. – Keeta Mar 23 at 14:41
2  
@Keeta: that would certainly be correct, and would be preferred by some styles. – Steve Jessop Mar 23 at 15:15
    
@Keeta Yes, whom is another option here. In modern English we can use either who or whom here. :-) – Araucaria Mar 24 at 12:28
    
@Araucaria Oxford Dictionaries state: "...[I]f you are writing at work, at college or university, or for publication, it is ... advisable to use the more formal whom, especially in constructions with a preposition." This item certainly looks to meet at least one of these criteria. oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/who-or-whom-american – Keeta Mar 24 at 15:16
1  
@Keeta We have no choice when whom is the complement of a preposition. However, in all other circumstances it is entirely optional. If you want to sound extremely formal in your university writing then go ahead and use whom. However, I've never seen a uni paper corrected for who (apart from after a preposition)- and in terms of blogs, this level of formality is certainly not required. – Araucaria Mar 24 at 15:38

You want to write

Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

it is fine. I'd prefer a little change though!

Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men named/called Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

About the original sentence, it is just a style of writing.

Replace names, make a sentence shorter

The two men Ruchir, an Indian, was talking about were JR and StoneyB!

I'm not sure but a little comma may help

The two men, Ruchir, an Indian, was talking about were JR and StoneyB!

The hint is 'was' applies to 'Ruchir' and 'were' to those both men!

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1  
It clarifies everything. I always want a simple explanation for my questions on this platform. Spot on, as always! – Ruchir M Mar 23 at 11:29
5  
I think the extra comma in your last example sentence makes the sentence ungrammatical. – Damkerng T. Mar 23 at 12:48
    
I think so too, @DamkerngT. – CowperKettle Mar 23 at 18:23
  1. Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The Original Poster, Ruchir, asks if the sentence above can be used as a version of the complicated sentence from the blog. It can. It has the same information, but the information is organised in a different way. The focus of the sentence is different. We can use the Original Poster's example to help us understand the example from the blog.

Look at the following conversation. It is a bit unusual because the speakers are using full sentences instead of short answers:

A: Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

B: Sorry? Who are the two men Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill?

A: The two men Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The last sentence here is the original example from the blog. We can see that the focus of the two sentences is different. The first sentence tells us what happened to Savchenko. The last sentence tells us who the two victims were.

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1  
+1 Exactly, it's an information packaging issue. – CowperKettle Mar 25 at 11:28
    
Yes, this simply clarifies my doubts. +1 for an explanation. – Ruchir M Mar 25 at 12:13

The first sentence is hard to parse. The second is much easier to understand, and we can deduct the same information from both. But I would use each (with a "who" inserted in the first one) in different ways:

Their identity was kept a secret, but today we were told that the two men (, whom) Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill (,) were Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The inmates of the prison were all there for very serious crimes. For example, Savchenko, an Iraq war veteran, was convicted of helping to kill the two men Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk.

The first sentence emphasizes the names of the two men, the second emphasizes the evil act and the conviction.

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