Someone trains a dog by setting it on neighbours. Neighbours tell him a threat so that the abuser will be scared of being arrested.

Neighbours express a threat that they will go to the police.

Neighbours express a threat to go to the police.

Neighbours express a threat that they go to the police

I wonder whether all the sentences are grammatical.

  • 2
    They're all unnecessarily "awkward". Far better to just go for "Neighbours threatened to go to the police." Jan 7, 2015 at 17:23
  • @FumbleFingers What bothers me is whether a speaker of English will understand the sentence if I use 'threat to do something' or 'threat that I will do something'. Or it is complete nonsense, and does not make sense at all.
    – user11470
    Jan 7, 2015 at 19:01
  • Beautiful language is usually when you reduce long phrases, clauses and sentences. As FumbleFingers states, "threaten" is way better since it's shorter and instead of doing a "cat-and-a-hank" game, cuts to the main point.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 7, 2015 at 20:05
  • 1
    You can "express a threat" but you cannot "threat" - you have to use the verb form, "threaten."
    – mc01
    Jan 8, 2015 at 0:34
  • @Humbulani - I've edited my answer. You did use the noun "threat" as a verb in your comment above. You cannot "threat to do something," nor can you "threat that you will do something" In both cases you "threaten" to do something.
    – mc01
    Jan 9, 2015 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


In all cases above, I would replace the noun "threat" with the verb "threaten."

The neighbours threatened to go to the police.

The neighbours have threatened to go to the police.

Your 1st & 2nd examples are grammatically correct, but awkward in their use of the present-tense verb "express" which sounds as if you're narrating the scene in real-time. If that's your intention, they make sense but would still sound more natural with "threaten" instead.

The neighbours threaten to go to the police (right now, as I'm narrating events to you).

Your 3rd example also mixes verb tense in a way that doesn't sound natural to a native speaker. You're expressing a simple present-tense threat about a present-tense action. It most likely should be a past-tense or present-continuous threat, and a future-tense or present-continuous action.

As written, I would say it is not grammatically correct unless the neighbours routinely state their intention to go to the police for all sorts of things. It's like a detached narrator watching from the outside & saying "The neighbours announce that they enjoy skiing." Ok ... so what?

Some further examples:

The neighbors express a threat that they are going to the police.

Happening right now. They're going to the police as I narrate it.

The neighbors expressed a threat that they will go to the police.

They expressed it an hour ago & will go at some future time. This would be most natural if you're explaining completed events to somebody else, and the neighbors haven't yet gone to the police.

The neighbors are expressing a threat that they will go to the police.

Happening right now as I explain it, they'll go to the police in the future. This would be most natural if the neighbors are still arguing right now & you're explaining what's happening.

Would a native English speaker understand all of the examples regardless? Probably. If that's all you care about, then say any of the 3.

That said, if you're interested expressing yourself in a way that sounds normal to native speakers and clearly matches your intended meaning, then hopefully these explanations clarify things a bit.


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