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In this sentense

Trump said the U.S. would begin charging additional duties of 25 percent on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports in response to what he says is theft of American intellectual property.

I think the to in ~ in response to is a preposition. so i expected in response to + Noun. But I guess what he says is a subject and is theft of American intellectual property is a predicate verb. I don't think ~ in response to + S + V possible. How does this sentence make sense?

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    The sentence is OK. "What he says is theft of American intellectual property" is not a clause but a noun phrase in a 'fused' relative construction functioning as complement of the preposition "to". It can be paraphrased as "that which he says is theft of American intellectual property". – BillJ Jul 6 '18 at 8:00
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Lets' break this down. The sentence is reported speech Trump(subject) said(verb) ...(reported speech). The reported speech is backshifted. I'll bring that to the front.

[The U.S.] subject [will begin] verb [[charging additional duties] [of 25 percent] [on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports] [in response to what Trump says is theft of American intellectual property.]]

The verb phrase "will begin" is completed by the gerund "charging additonal duties". There is then a series of prepositional phrases.

The last of these has "in response to (noun phrase)", and the noun phrase uses another clause of reported speech. The pronoun "what" means "the thing that..." and is the complement of "is theft" in the reported speech.

in response to [what Trump says is theft of American intellectual property]

So the duties are in response to (something)

Trump said that (something) is the theft of American IP.

So the duties are in response to the theft of American IP (according to Trump)

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  • the ‘what’ relative pronoun is used as not only a object for ‘he says’ but also a subject for ‘is the theft’. is this possible that one pronoun plays two roles? – Younghyo Kim Jul 6 '18 at 9:52
  • @YounghyoKim: that's it exactly. It is sometimes called a "fused relative". – Colin Fine Jul 6 '18 at 9:59
  • @YounghyoKim No, that’s not right. Fused “what” combines the functions of head of the noun phrase and subject of the embedded is theft clause. It is not object of “says”. The clause “__ is theft of American intellectual property” is complement of “says” – BillJ Jul 6 '18 at 11:31
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Prepositions are complemented by any word or phrase that can be resolved to {some thing} or {some place} or {some time}, whatever the preposition requires.

I asked him for {something}.

I asked him for {money}.

I asked him for {what he had in his wallet}.

I asked him for {what he said was free for the taking}.

The limousine service will drive you to {the ocean}.

The limousine service will drive you to {wherever you like}.

The train leaves at {9AM sharp}.

The train leaves at {whatever time the driver feels like leaving}.

You can see the same thing here:

The boy wants {something}.

The boy wants {a lollipop}.

The boy wants {what his brother has}.

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