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Is the following question grammatically correct? How + to + verb?

What to buy, where to buy it and (most importantly) how to keep it alive until New Year. Cambridge News

  • Yes. There are two more occurrences of the same phrasing right before it (i.e., what to buy and where to buy). What did you find non-grammatical about it? – Teacher KSHuang Feb 13 '17 at 11:35
  • As I know, the questions should use this form (How + auxiliary) ‘How are the children?’. and if it is affirmative, it should be in this form ‘I asked how he was doing’ (How + subject). so my question is: can we use How + to + infinitive? – Shannak Feb 13 '17 at 11:42
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    Firstly, what you quote is not actually a question. It has no question mark at the end, and it isn't supposed to be a question, but a simple phrase: (this is) how to keep it alive. It isn't a grammatically correct question, or even a grammatically correct sentence of any kind, but an example of headlinese. – stangdon Feb 13 '17 at 18:56
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This is the making of a noun clause using wh- question words (including how).

  • What (do I buy)? = What (to buy)
  • Where (do I buy)? = Where (to buy)
  • How (do I keep it alive)? = How (to keep it alive)

As you can see, you can make the noun clause by using the infinitive of the verb from the question, then adding the question word from the question.

For example, the verb in the question "do I buy" reverts to its infinitive, "to buy."

Then you tack on the original question word, "What" and you get, "What to buy" from "What + to buy."

The other detail of note in your example is that it is not a complete sentence.

It requires another clause such as, "(We will show you) what to buy, where to buy and how to keep it alive."

In this way, it might be more obvious to see that these had not been questions.

For further reading, you may see, "Forming Noun Clauses from Questions," by Linguistics Girl.

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    Thank you, it is very helpful, please recommend a reference so I can read more – Shannak Feb 14 '17 at 10:57
  • @Shannak. I've edited the post to include a reference for further reading :). – Teacher KSHuang Feb 14 '17 at 11:46

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