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I want to make a question from the proverb "For every proverb there is an opposite one". Here are some attempts and why they don't work:

  • "Is for every proverb there an opposite one?": the part "there an opposite one" feel unnatural to me

  • "Is there an opposite one for every proverb?": "one" comes before what it points to

  • "Is there an opposite proverb for every one?": the part "every one" can be mistaken with "everyone"

  • "Is there an opposite proverb for every proverb?": repetition

One can go around this and ask "Is it true that for every proverb there is an opposite one?", but then how do we ask the why question? "Why is for every proverb there an opposite one?"

Just for fun question: is there any proverb for unnatural yet grammatical sentences?

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    Is there is an idiom that it pretty well unsplittable. I find Is there for each proverb an opposite one? to be better, though still awkward. A more natural way is to say Does each proverb have an opposite one? (though I would probably say Has each proverb got an opposite one?, but not everybody likes that phraseology). – Colin Fine Feb 28 at 15:41
  • "Has each proverb got an opposite one?"? This seems to have a different meaning. – Ooker Feb 28 at 16:00
  • I don't know if you really mean "opposite" - perhaps you mean "a proverb that contradicts it". To contradict is To assert the opposite of a statement or idea put forward by (someone). Here are some examples: 15 Pairs of Contradictory Proverbs – ColleenV Mar 1 at 15:04
  • @ColleenV "To contradict is to assert the opposite". So why do you find "contradict" understandable, but not with "opposite"? – Ooker Mar 1 at 16:28
  • Because things can be "opposite" in many ways. Contradict (in this sense) is specifically for assertions, which is essentially what a proverb is - an assertion about what should or shouldn't be done, or an assertion about what is true. If I were going to use "opposite", I wouldn't say "that proverb is the opposite of this one", I would say "What that proverb says is the opposite of what this one says". – ColleenV Mar 1 at 17:13
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The best and most natural way of expressing these, to me, is:

  • "For every proverb, is there an opposite one?"

  • "Why, for every proverb, is there an opposite one?"

or:

  • "Why is there, for every proverb, an opposite one?"

or:

  • "For every proverb, why is there an opposite one?"

in approximate order of how well I like them.

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    Nothing in the OP's text mentions anything about why people often say that every proverb can be contrasted with another proverb saying the complete opposite. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 at 16:41
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    @FumbleFingers Sorry, but was that not literally the last line of OP's post (apart from the last "fun question")? What have I misunderstood here? – Prime Mover Feb 28 at 22:24
  • My apologies. I don't know how I managed to miss that! In my defence, that's not what the title says the question is about. But I'll leave my previous comment there as a testament to my carelessness (and that of whoever upvoted the comment! :) – FumbleFingers Mar 1 at 13:18
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The cited example is extremely "non-idiomatic", but I don't think that's because it's actually "ungrammatical".

I was originally going to say it's invalid to introduce additional text between the first two words in interrogative Is there something? or Are there some other things? But then I thought about this example...

Was ever there a man so romantic?
...where only a dyed-in-the-wool pedant would say that must be expressed as...
Was there ever a man so romantic?

I can't see any reason why OP's (adjectival? adverbial?) for every is any different to ever in my example. So I have to say they're both syntactically valid - but whereas my own example is just the right side of "idiomatically acceptable", I'm afraid OP's example isn't.


TL;DR: OP's example is at the very least "clumsy", and should be rephrased to, for example,...

Is there an opposite one for every proverb?

...where I would prefer to include one, but that's an optional stylistic choice.

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