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Object questions are easy, if in the sentence there is just a main verb, showing the whole action. What if there is an infinitive of purpose with an (prepositional) object?

How does one make object questions for the nouns following infinitives at the end of these example sentences?

Highway systems were built to connect the suburbs.
He bought some flowers to give to his wife. 
He locked the door to keep strangers out.

I've been going trough a dozen of American and British grammar books I was able to get my hands on. I've found nothing on this particular problem. They keep it short and simple.

I guess adding a wh-word at the end of that statements is a safe option, isn't it?

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    Usually with ‘why’. Sep 28 '21 at 3:54
  • Why do you think "to connect the suburbs" is an object? It's not a noun phrase. Objects are nouns.
    – gotube
    Sep 28 '21 at 17:35
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    @yewgeniy: If I'm understanding the question correctly, you're trying to recast these sentences into questions, whose answers will be of the form "to [do something]" (connect the suburbs, give to his wife, keep strangers out). If that is the correct understanding, then the proper form is indeed "Why did [subject] [verb]?" What makes you believe that such questions "shouldn't begin with why"?
    – Kevin
    Sep 30 '21 at 22:51
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    I think you are confusing grammatical object and objectives of action.
    – sundowner
    Oct 4 '21 at 11:32
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    This question is more complex than I thought. Try making a formal question from "He bought some flowers to give to his wife" and you get "To whom did he buy some flowers to give"
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 5 '21 at 1:37
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Your newly created question does not need to question the action, locked the door for example, because the action did occur therefore it need not be questioned.

Highway systems were built to connect the suburbs.

What things are connected by building highway systems?

The built highway systems connect what?

He bought some flowers to give to his wife.

To whom is he giving the flowers he bought?

The flowers he bought are to give to whom?

He locked the door to keep strangers out.

Who is kept out by his locking the door?

He locked the door to keep who out?

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+50

How does one make object questions for the nouns following infinitives at the end of these example sentences?

If I understand correctly, you are looking to question the final noun phrase:

Highway systems were built to connect the suburbs.

What were highway systems built to connect?

He bought some flowers to give to his wife.

*Who did he buy some flowers to give to?

You should phrase the question another way, e.g. "Who did he buy flowers for?"

He locked the door to keep strangers out.

?Who did he lock the door to keep out?

This sounds a bit forced. Better: "Who was he trying to keep out by locking the door?"

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    Agree, except that "Who did he lock the door to keep out?" is fine for me.
    – Josh Regev
    Oct 6 '21 at 13:36
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    *Who did he buy some flowers to give to? seems to be problematic because the structure of the original sentence is different. I believe "to give to his wife" is nested under "flowers", rather than connected to the entire first clause, as in the other examples.
    – Josh Regev
    Oct 6 '21 at 13:44
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    Is "Who did he buy some flowers to give them to?" any better, though? Sounds extremely awkward at best.
    – nschneid
    Oct 6 '21 at 13:50
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    No, I agree with you — both are ungrammatical. For this type of sentence, unlike the others, you have to come up with with an alternate phrasing like you suggested ("Who did he buy flowers for?"). I was only pointing out a possible reason that the normal way of forming a question doesn't work here. The structure seems to be "He bought some [flowers [to give to his wife]]", akin to "He has a [dog [without a tail]]" — you can't ask: *"What does he have a dog without?"
    – Josh Regev
    Oct 6 '21 at 14:22
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    Right, but with "them" it is a clausal adjunct: "He bought some flowers to give them to his wife" (the purpose of buying flowers was to give them to his wife).
    – nschneid
    Oct 6 '21 at 14:30

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