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I was recently asked to decide:

Which the best reason is for people to do exercise.

Momentarily, I stopped in my tracks, I felt I should have been asked:

Which is the best reason for people to do exercise.

..for no other reason than that it sounds more natural.

Is there an issue with word order in the first sentence?

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  • Sounds like a multiple choice question in a test or quiz. Jul 4, 2019 at 4:18
  • The title of your question implies a different question than does the body of your question. This is causing problems for the given answers. I don't actually know what you're asking, because you are mixing certain phrases with other text—but asking only about the phrases themselves in the title of your question. In your question title, the first phrase sounds better; in your question body, it become ungrammatical. Jul 4, 2019 at 6:33
  • Thank you, Jason, for your reply. As a "newbie" I wasn't sure how long the title should be (this is my first post) and can now see that I have paid for my brevity. You say "it become(s) or became ungrammatical". Please could you tell me how. I ask because I don't know though I would try to understand. Flea has also given a grammatical answer but doesn't say why (though he does say that it made little sense).
    – Giuliano
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

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The first one follows the list of "Pronoun linking verb adjective noun" while the second follows "Pronoun adjective noun linking verb" which makes little sense.

The first "Which is the best reason" follows smoothly because "which" is connected by the "is" to the noun and subject of the clause, "reason", along with its adjective, "best".

I agree with Zeeman though since what is a better Interrogative pronoun in this case.

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  • Hi Flea, I am also a new contributor and would really like to know why the sentence makes little sense. What grammatical rule is being broken or bent? I have pressed several teachers (native and non-native) for an answer but would prefer a more "technical" answer than those I have been given.
    – Giuliano
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:23
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The first doesn't sound natural in any way.. The better option could be

'What could be the best reason for people to exercise?'

or

'What is the best reason for people to exercise?'

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  • People never do exercise. They only ever exercise.
    – tchrist
    Jul 3, 2019 at 23:46
  • @zeeman OP's question seems to be how the question should be reported: I was recently asked to decide what is/could be the best reason for people to exercise OR I was recently asked to decide what the best reason is/could be for people to exercise
    – Gustavson
    Jul 4, 2019 at 0:11
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To Zeeman; I agree, hence my question and I like your alternatives. To tchrist; though that was how the question was put to me, I think you will find many examples of "do exercise" (Corpus of Contemporary American English). On that note, when I searched for "which the best reason is" I got zero results so I turned to Stack Exchange.

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