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A citizen questioning his government is not a crime.

Is its structure grammatical? It sounds weird to me.

What I think the structure means is 'A citizen is not a crime' which is the reduced form of 'A citizen who questions his government is not a crime', which is unnatural. A person can't be crime , the act of questioning can be crime.

What I think the correct sentence to say this is:

A citizen's questioning his government is not a crime.

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  • where did you find this? as it sounds like a political slogan, which have to sound profound not actually grammatical.
    – WendyG
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 11:01

1 Answer 1

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I agree it is a slightly odd phrasing. But my solution would be major rephrasing.

The subject is the participle-gerund clause "A citizen questioning his government". Which is headed by the word "questioning" and so it states that this "questioning" isn't a crime.

Note that this would be different if we wrote "A citizen, questioning his government," as now this is a phrase headed by the noun "citizen" and modified by the gerund-participle.

Sometimes, perhaps to avoid this kind of ambiguity, the subject of gerunds is written in genitive is used as "a citizen's questioning of the government" (not sure why "of" is needed now - but it is).

But a better solution is to delay this long "weighty" subject to the end:

It is not a crime for a citizen to question the government.

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