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I have seen the following sentence in some article:

Where some understanding exists of how brain processes produce mental phenomena-for example, pain, thirst, vision, smell-it is clear that specific neurobiological processes are involved.

It seems that the original form of the bold phrase is is:

  • Where some understanding of how brain processes produce mental phenomena exists

I wonder whether it is natural, especially in formal writing, to place any long phrase at the end of a sentence/clause, even if it is a part of an "of-phrase"?

3 Answers 3

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It is normal to place longer phrases at the end of sentences.

This tendency is called End weight. It is not only seen in English, but in some other languages too.

Your sentence is a good example. The "original form" is relatively clumsy. The very short verb phrase "exists" seems to dangle at the end of a long and complex subject.

There is a solution, and that solution is the one used in the example. The "of" phrase can be moved to the end of the phrase, and in doing so it improves the sentence, by making it less clumsy.

See the linked website for further examples.

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This is a process called Heavy clause extraposition, and is common in written English.

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Both are equally "natural". It's just a matter of making it easier to parse. I would say the inverted form is more literary and the uninverted form is more likely in conversation, but the long, complex phrases that call for inversion are rare in conversation anyway.

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