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Source:

Perhaps the most immediate threat will be to delicate peace talks this week in the Belarusian capital Minsk that Poroshenko announced on Monday.

I asked a native English speaker and he said that the sentence sounded fine to him. But I have a problem with the word order in this sentence. Why are the words to delicate peace talks this week shifted way past where it would normally be (or at least that's where I'd put them), like in the following rewritten example?

Perhaps the most immediate threat to delicate peace talks this week will be in the Belarusian capital Minsk that Poroshenko announced on Monday.

  • I'd just add a the to the sentence: Perhaps the most immediate threat will be to the delicate peace talks this week in the Belarussian capital Minsk that Poroshenko announced on Monday. – Jim Dec 23 '14 at 18:16
  • Note that it's "Belarusian", with one "s". – David Richerby Dec 24 '14 at 0:26
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The original article, for those interested.

The two sentences are similar, but have slightly different meanings.

In the article's version, we are considering all of the threats that could result from Ukraine moving toward NATO. The most immediate of all of those threats is to the peace talks, but there are other threats that are centered on entirely different diplomatic and economic (and lets hope not military) concerns.

In the version you wrote, we are considering only the threats to the peace talks, the most immediate of which is the result of Ukraine moving toward NATO. There may be other threats to the peace talks, but this is the most immediate. Any threats that do not focus on the peace talks are not considered by this sentence.

From the comments I saw something that was not immediately apparent in the version you wrote that you (Cookie Monster) did see, so good on you. The way that the second sentence reads is that the location of the threat itself is in Minsk, and it is the most immediate. I'm not sure what the threat would be that had so certain a location, but we know where it will be this week. Maybe Godzilla?

A sentence that would be more natural for your phrasing might be:

This is perhaps the most immediate threat to delicate peace talks this week in Minsk...

Where this refers to Ukraine's move toward NATO and will be is omitted entirely.

  • I got your explanation, but I still think this sentence (article version) is very unusual. Isn't it? – Man_From_India Dec 23 '14 at 16:32
  • No, it's quite common in newswriting. E.g. The most damaging effects of the oil spill will be upon the fragile estuaries. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 23 '14 at 16:35
  • @Man_From_India Perhaps because it's out of context and quite wordy it seems unusual? I'm not sure. It seems fine to me (American English, to be clear.) – Jason Patterson Dec 23 '14 at 16:36
  • @TRomano I don't know why, but your example sentence didn't sound unusual. In fact they seemed natural to my ears also :) – Man_From_India Dec 23 '14 at 16:38
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    @Man_From_India: It's possible that you're expecting an infinitive phrase "...immediate threat will be to {verb}...". and since 'delicate' looks like a verb it begins to fulfill that expectation, until one sees it is an adjective. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 23 '14 at 16:44
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The original versions include a confusing use of the word "that" that seems to indicate Poroshenko's announcing of Minsk as the capital of Belarussia.

I would suggest:

Perhaps the most immediate threat will be to this week's delicate peace talks, in the Belarusian capital Minsk, announced by Poroshenko on Monday.

  • Why would you suggest that? Answers that include explanations are much more valuable than ones that don't. – David Richerby Dec 24 '14 at 0:25
  • The original versions include a confusing use of the word "that" that seems to indicate Poroshenko's announcing of Minsk as the capital of Belarussia. – SonOfGoldiehack Dec 24 '14 at 17:16
  • Thanks! Please edit that into your answer: comments are vulnerable to deletion. – David Richerby Dec 24 '14 at 17:42

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