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I would like to know if the expression in bold below is correct.

I cannot have a long talk now. Let's talk later. I am doing something with my mom related to moving to a new house.

This could be a line spoken in a situation where my mom and I are moving some new furniture for the new house and a call has just come from my friend who wants to have a long talk.

The part I am not sure is correct is "related to moving to a new house" in the sentence because it is placed far from the noun "something" that it modifies. I want to say "I am doing something related to a new house with my mom." but I want to emphasize the part "with my mom" so I have to place "with my mom" right behind "something". Then, the part "related to moving to a new house" goes after that, and it gets far from "something". Is it okay that the phrase that modifies a noun gets far from the noun?

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I am doing something with my mom related to moving to a new house.

No problem arises when a phrase as brief as with my mom separates the nominal from a phrase that modifies it.

However, when the intervening phrase introduces too much information, especially another nominal to which the modifier can apply, things fall apart:

I am doing something with my mom, who has wanted to downsize ever since my dad died in a freak accident, related to moving to a new house.

Are you doing something related to moving to a new house? Or was the freak accident related to moving to a new house? Some people will say that the punctuation disambiguates, but you don't want to rely upon punctuation; rearranging the pieces is a better option:

I am doing something related to moving to a new house with my mom, who has wanted to downsize ever since my dad died in a freak accident.

You could also do the following sort of rearrangement in writing, where the prepositional phrase is moved to the head of the sentence; it is not likely to be done in spoken conversation:

With my mom, who has wanted to downsize ever since my dad died in a freak accident, I am doing something related to moving to a new house.

If you are not moving (let's say you're already married and living elsewhere) and only your mom would be moving:

With my mom, who has wanted to downsize ever since my dad died in a freak accident, I am doing something related to her moving to a new house.

The more likely scenario in spoken conversation is to start a new sentence:

I am doing something with my mom related to (her) moving to a new house. She has wanted to downsize ever since my dad died in a freak accident.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. I am reading and understanding it. – Smart Humanism Jan 14 '17 at 6:04
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Yes, it's fine. You're concern is certainly valid, and sometimes it may indeed make sense to rearrange the sentence components to improve readability, or avoid ambiguity. So as you suggested, you could have had:

I am doing something related to moving to a new house with my mum

That avoids the distance from noun problem you're concerned about, however it then runs the risk of the ambiguity I mentioned. It's now unclear if it's just you that's moving to the new house or if it's both you and your mum who are moving there together. Of course that could be cleared up using commas:

I am doing something, related to moving to a new house, with my mum

But that's a little stilted in this situation. You could also try:

I am doing something house-moving related with my mum

But now we've tweaked the meaning slightly and that may not be what you want.

So overall your original is probably the best approach given what you're trying to say.

  • Thank you so much. I will study your answer for a while. :) – Smart Humanism Jan 14 '17 at 6:04

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