What's it mean that the review is now a criminal probe?

The sentence has two verbs, the is in What's and mean.

Is this right?

Why can it be written this way?

Source: "News Brief: DOJ Investigates Russia Probe, Impeachment Latest, Iraq Protests"

1 Answer 1


The verb is is in a subordinate clause:

What's it mean that the review is now a criminal probe?

It works like this sentence:

Ryan Lucas said that the matter is now a criminal investigation.

"That the matter is now a criminal investigation" is the object of "said". The subordinate clause is like a sentence within a sentence. As a whole, it serves as a big noun in the main clause ("Ryan Lucas said…").

Your example sentence is slightly more complicated. It actually has three verbs, which we can see if we expand the contraction:

What does it mean that the review is now a criminal probe?

Of course, does is only an auxiliary verb here, serving only to make the sentence a question. But you can still see two verbs if we shorten the sentence like this:

What does it mean?

It's actually not unusual to have multiple verbs in an English sentence. Here are a few more examples:

Let me go!

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Steve should ask Betty to tell Elaine to pay the gas bill before the gas company shuts off the gas and the furnace stops and we all freeze.

  • 1
    I get it. 'S in what's is not is, but is does. That+a sentence can be used as a noun.
    – gghhrr
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 4:13
  • Oops! With the newly edited question, I see that I misunderstood what "is" referred to in the original question. The only difficulty was the contraction of "does". I'll let this answer stand, though now I see that 90% of it is actually irrelevant. Maybe the irrelevant part is still useful.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 4:37

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