1 To smoke is important to him.

1a How important to him is to smoke?

2 It is important to him to smoke.

2a How important to him is it to smoke?

Are 1a and 2a correct?

  • 1
    No, in 1a replace "to smoke" with "smoking". All 4 are probably not what a native BrE speaker would say and can be replaced by Smoking is important to him / How important is smoking to him?. In any case, please include the research you did before asking this question. Jan 23, 2023 at 12:00
  • But is 1 correct? If 1 is correct, why is it that 1a is not?
    – user1425
    Jan 23, 2023 at 12:16
  • 3
    All the examples are "syntactically valid". But they're all non-idiomatic (because smoking is preferred over to smoke here). AND 1a is particularly non-idiomatic because native speakers would almost always include pronoun it in such constructions. But obsessing over "syntactically valid" utterances is pointless if the text under consideration isn't something native speakers say anyway. Jan 23, 2023 at 12:52

1 Answer 1


Sentences (1), (1a), (2), and (2a) are all grammatically valid. None of these would be likely to be said or written by a fluent speaker, they are not natural. As the comment by user  FumbleFingers points out, "smoking" would normally be used instead of "to smoke". In sentences (1a) and (2) as writen the use of 'to smoke": makes the word "to" occur twice in close succession. This feels awkward to many fluent speakers, so it would be avoided.

If a fluent speaker were to say something like (1a), the pronoun "it" would almost surely be added:

(1b) How important to him is it to smoke?

But although this is slightly better than (1a) it is still not very natural.

I would say that (2) is somewhat more natural than (1), and (2a) is perhaps the best of all of these. But the more likely forms would be:

(2b) Smoking is important to him.

(2c) How important is smoking to him?

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