English as a Second Language/Different


QUESTION: Dear Shannon,

I do cannot figure out how this sentence is formed/structured - "what do you think happens to John?". Especially the way the verb 'happen' comes after 'think' without a subject before it.

On the other hand, can the verb 'explain' be followed by 'about'? (The guide was explaining about the archaeological site).

Thanks and best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

ANSWER: Yes, both are acceptable.

What do you think happens to John?
This is a shortened form of saying:
What will happen to John in your opinion?

When we use 'about' after explain, it is optional.  However, in other situations, it is not optional "talking about, telling about, etc."

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Could you please elaborate on the first part of the question? I did not get the point. Thank you!

If we deconstruct the question into a simple sentence:

You do think what happens to John.  (using the same words - of course this doesn't make sense)
You think something happens to John.  (standardized)

Now if we analyze the sentence, we see that "you" is the subject of "think", "something" is the object and the next phrase has the verb "happens" that connects to "something."

The word "what" is actually a placeholder (pronoun) for a noun, but is often forgotten in forming questions.

What happens to John?
What do we believe happens to John?
Which kind of pizza do they recommend ordering from the restaurant?

English as a Second Language

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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