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Can I say

"The place where she is now is closer than what you might think"

In the example a father is telling his son about the place where his mother, no longer alive, may be.

What bothers me is the reason why what I wrote in bold letters is not common. And I know it is not because I searched it on google in quotes and got very few results. Is it redundant to begin the sentence with "The place"? Should I omit it and leave it implied by "where"? How else could I write this sentence, without inverting the clauses? Thanks

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    It's fine. Google is not a grammarian. Not everything is already "out there". Better is: "The place she's in now is closer than you might think" – Lambie Nov 20 '17 at 23:12
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"The place where she is now is closer than what you might think"

Perfectly grammatical, but verbose.

Let's look at what can be eliminated.

The place.

Where she is now is closer than what you might think.

where she is now

She is closer than what you might think.

what you might think

She is closer than you think.

"might think" does mean something a little different than "think". With "might think", the speaker means "what you probably think" or "what you are likely to think". The version with might is not as forceful or definite. So we can put it back:

She is closer than you might think.

P.S. If you wish to refer to where she is as a place then there is reason for place to stay. But in normal everyday conversation, if you're focusing on how far away or near she is, "the place where she is is closer" would most likely be stated as "she is closer".

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There is nothing wrong with the grammar in that sentence.

You're right that "the place ..." is slightly redundant and could be omitted but it helps to emphasize that you are saying something about the place rather than about her. I also think it makes the sentence easier to parse.

You could also say "She is now closer than you might think." or "She is now in a closer place than you might think."

  • It should be: ... it makes the sentence easier to parse. I tried to edit it but couldn't. – Gustavson Nov 21 '17 at 1:12
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Your plan of Googling a phrase (with quotes around it) is good thinking, but a sentence like "The place where she is now is closer than what you might think" is too long and too specific to give an accurate representation of the phrase's commonality or correctness .

Breaking the sentence into smaller sections and removing words that are unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence (such as "what" or "might" in this case) will produce more results.

Also, experiment with Google's verbatim feature to return different search results. It's #2 on this list of Google Search tips. I use the feature constantly, especially with technical searches like coding questions.

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Another Google tool that is informative and interesting is the Google Ngram Viewer, which search through millions of books (some written centuries ago) to see & compare word or phrase frequency over time. Phrases don't use quotes; they are separated by commas.

Here is an example of Ngram, breaking up your example phrase into 2 parts. Note the differences when you change the corpus (like British English versus American English).

As for the phrase in question:

The place where she is now is closer than what you might think

...make sense, but sounds slightly unnatural to me. I don't think what belongs in it, and personally I would add a comma. I would write it:

The place she is now, is closer than you might think.

I suspect my comma placement is probably not "correct" but it makes sense to me (and besides, the very definition of "correct English" is rapidly changing). As you can tell, I tend to write with lots of quotes, commas and italic, especially online like this, because I feel that it helps convey my "intended tone" by breaking up sentences with commas, and bringing attention to certain words.

Unless you're planning on becoming an English Teacher, perfect grammar is absolutely unnecessary. The important part is that people know what you're trying to communicate (even if it's not the same way others would spell or phrase it).

The idiot president of the USA has terrible grammar and likes to make up words to suit his needs, but his bank account hasn't been negatively impacted. :)

  • The sentence "The place she is now .........." isn't grammatical. You cannot say the country she is, the city she is, etc. without the relevant preposition. You need the preposition in in the sentence i.e. The place she's in now....... – Khan Nov 21 '17 at 11:51
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    @Khaaaaaaan (hehe)-- Probably not, that was part of my point: people can say the same thing many different ways and still get their thought across. Ourt of curiosity, how would you word it, with perfect grammar? – ashleedawg Nov 21 '17 at 11:57

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