I saw the following sentence in a dictionary. I'd like to know whether it is correct and what relationship holds between "what even you must condemn" and "he was lying."

But, what even you must condemn, he was lying.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • Is this some kind of proverb? – BillJ Jan 15 '19 at 12:28
  • It's an awkward example, but I think it is just a fused relative construction. – Colin Fine Jan 15 '19 at 13:00
  • It's hard to analyze it as a fused relative clause. – Apollyon Jan 15 '19 at 13:06
  • 1
    I don't think it's grammatically valid. It seems to me initial but is syntactically irrelevant / discardable anyway, and what's left should be As even you must condemn, he was lying. Even then it's "awkward", but at least it would reflect the same structure as As even you must admit, he was lying. Which looks like a standard "fronted adverbial clause" to me. – FumbleFingers Jan 15 '19 at 13:07

I think the meaning is

He was lying, a thing even you must condemn.

But, what (a thing) even you must condemn, he was lying.

Presumably you're willing to accept hypocrisy or a degree of shady dealing, but outright lies go too far even for you.


But, what they did not know, I had the combination to the safe all along.

I hear this pattern quite a lot. A variant of it is:

But, what they did not know was I had the combination to the safe all along.

  • The variant structure is definitely correct, but I' like to know whether "What they know, John lives in New York" and "John lives in New York, what they know" are correct with the same structure. – Apollyon Jan 15 '19 at 13:36
  • Those examples do not have "the same structure", and they are not valid. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 15 '19 at 13:44
  • What even they know, John lives in New York. is valid. What hardly anyone knows, John lives in New York is valid. So-called "polarity" is involved. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 15 '19 at 13:51
  • Does the what-clause always precede the main cause? – Apollyon Jan 15 '19 at 14:44
  • And what kind of polarity is involved? – Apollyon Jan 15 '19 at 14:47

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