Which of these sentences is correct / more common / formal?

For what did he win a Nobel Prize?

What did he win a Nobel Prize for?

  • 1
    To avoid the preposition for, one could ask, "How did he win his Nobel Prize?" – J.R. Nov 27 '14 at 21:00
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    The for what version is less common. – snailplane Nov 29 '14 at 5:58

For what did he win a Nobel Prize?

Very correct, very formal.

What did he win a Nobel Prize for?

More colloquial. Also very dependent on context &/or emphasis.

Taken at face value, & also when written, it asks the same question as the first version… but with emphasis on he it could indicate the speaker is wondering why the Nobel committee thought he was deserving of an award.

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  • Thanks, yes, they are both supposed to mean the same thing. – IllidanS4 wants Monica back Nov 27 '14 at 20:55
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    The distorted meaning in the second version is simply that the exact wording could be used to ask two questions; very dependant on context & emphasis. I often look for unintentional misconceptions in sentences - my sense of humour depends on them ;) – gone fishin' again. Nov 27 '14 at 20:58
  • @Tetsujin - do you think if this sentence is correct - What did he win a Nobel prize in? – Leo Nov 29 '14 at 8:46
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    @Leo - both questions are correct, but they mean different things. The answer to: What did in win a Nobel Prize in? would be something like, "Economics," or, "Physics." The answer to: What did he win a Nobel Prize for? is something like, "For his advances in game theory," or, "For his discovery of a new subatomic particle." – J.R. Nov 29 '14 at 9:12
  • @J.R.- thanks. that was very useful for me to know – Leo Nov 29 '14 at 9:29

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