a people whose bent it is to find pleasure

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learninglearner

Member
Korean - South Korea
Hello, members!

There's a sentence I cannot comprehend: "The close-cropped lawn," he wrote in The Theory of the Leisure Class, "is beautiful in the eyes of a people whose inherited bent it is to readily find pleasure in contemplating a well-preserved pasture or grazing land." (Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, Michael Pollan)

Although I understand its meaning, it's hard to figure out the grammatical structure of the upper sentence, especially "whose inherited bent it is to readily find pleasure."
I've seen an explanation that it is a kind of transformation of "It is a people's inherited bent to readily find a pleasure".
Still, I cannot understand why it says "it is bent to find pleasure", not "it is bent that find pleasure" and am curious if I can just remove the word "it" to grasp its meaning easily -so it goes like this: "beautiful in the eyes of a people whose inherited bent is to readily find pleasure"

(I'm really sorry for my too many questions. I put them in a thread because they are all about one sentence, but if I should question them each, I'll part them as fast as I can.)
 
  • Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    I must say I don't see the role "it" can have in this phrase.
    Like you , I would have said:
    in the eyes of a people whose inherited bent is to readily find pleasure...

    A native will help us understand... ;)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You need to look at the basic expression:

    It is my bent
    to find pleasure (I have the tendency or disposition to find pleasure).
    This is similar to "It is my wont to..." (I have the habit of...) These are rather old-fashioned phrases, but then Theodore Veblen's treatise from which the quote is taken was published in 1899.

    It is the inherited bent of these people to find pleasure...
    They are a people whose inherited bent it is to find pleasure...
     

    Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    mh.. But could it have been phrased without "it" and still be acceptable English? It seems weird.

    So you'd say:
    It is my pleasure to serve you
    Me, whose pleasure it is to serve you
    ?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Certainly not weird, and I think it's better with "it". I haven't checked, but I suspect that it was more common to write "it is his bent to..." rather than "his bent is to". We can also say "He is bent on (doing something)".

    It is my firm intention to serve the nation.
    "President XYZ, whose firm intention it was to serve the nation..."

    Yes, "It is my pleasure to serve you" - "I, whose pleasure it is to serve you..."
    Without "it", "My pleasure is to serve you" - I think that sounds perhaps as though my only pleasure is to serve you. I'd rather see those phrases placed in context before saying whether there is any difference.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I've seen an explanation that it is a kind of transformation of "It is a people's inherited bent to readily find a pleasure".
    Still, I cannot understand why it says "it is bent to find pleasure", not "it is bent that find pleasure" and am curious if I can just remove the word "it" to grasp its meaning easily -so it goes like this: "beautiful in the eyes of a people whose inherited bent is to readily find pleasure"
    Jason, thank you for pointing that out.
    "Inherited bent" - "inherited" here is an adjective describing the noun "bent". I think the American Heritage Dictionary has a good definition of the noun "bent":

    1. A tendency,disposition,or inclination:"The natural bent of my mind was to science" (Thomas Paine).
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/bent


    I think that in the OP sentence "it" could be omitted, as learninglearner suggests, and it would sound closer to the English we use today.
     

    learninglearner

    Member
    Korean - South Korea
    Thank you Kwistax, Velisarius, and Jason for posting replies! All of your answers gave me a great help.
    Now I see the reason why I could not figure out the structure; Being a beginner, I've never seen a situation where a sentence 'it is ... to.. ' is combined with other sentence using a relative. (In this case, 'whose.')

    So to synthesize what all of you kindly taught to me,

    "I knew a girl whose pleasure was to serve her parents."
    This is weird because it sounds like her only pleasure was to serve her parents. So it is better to say "a girl whose pleasure it was to serve her parents."

    However, it is fine to omit "it" in the given sentence because unlike 'pleasure', one can say 'My bent is to~' or 'His bent is to~.'

    If it does not bother you, could you check if I comprehend everything correctly?
     
    Last edited:
    wow Korean 3rd students from highschool?
    i was also very curious about this paragraph so i am now here to figure out the meaning of it!
    But there was already a friend who wanted to know it even a month ago!
    For all your works, now i understand why the author did put 'it'!!

    i am also 3rd students and it it really nice to meet you here.
    You had your account here- that means that you are interested in languages right?
    i hope to see you more after our uni entrance exam! :)
     

    learninglearner

    Member
    Korean - South Korea
    Yes, I love learning languages although I'm not good at it!

    +) Could anybody check if the upper summary I've written has anything wrong?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "I knew a girl whose pleasure was to serve her parents."
    This is weird because it sounds like her only pleasure was to serve her parents. So it is better to say "a girl whose pleasure it was to serve her parents."
    These two sentences have the same meaning. Only one pleasure is mentioned in each so they should both sound "weird" in the same way. However, we wouldn't interpret these to mean that she didn't have other pleasures, e.g. eating cake, but that this is the thing that makes her happiest or most fulfills her life.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You can say "My bent is to.../His bent is to...", but it's rather old-fashioned.

    "His bent was to lecture, rather than to lead..."
    Breaking New Ground, by Gifford Pinchot (1998)


    If you fancy using either of these expressions (below), they don't sound so dated:
    Bent: a natural skill: She has a scientific bent/a bent for science.
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/bent
     

    learninglearner

    Member
    Korean - South Korea
    Yes, "It is my pleasure to serve you" - "I, whose pleasure it is to serve you..."
    Without "it", "My pleasure is to serve you" - I think that sounds perhaps as though my only pleasure is to serve you. I'd rather see those phrases placed in context before saying whether there is any difference.
    These two sentences have the same meaning. Only one pleasure is mentioned in each so they should both sound "weird" in the same way. However, we wouldn't interpret these to mean that she didn't have other pleasures, e.g. eating cake, but that this is the thing that makes her happiest or most fulfills her life.
    Thank you Myridon for your reply.
    But could I ask if you have different view with other member or did I not fully understand what he/she meant?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I see a difference in emphasis:

    I had in mind the set phrase: It's my pleasure, meaning I'm happy to do that for you.
    It's my pleasure to serve you is similar: I'm happy to serve you.

    My pleasure is to serve you -
    "My pleasure" is equated with "serving you", and I think it sounds more emphatically servile.
     

    learninglearner

    Member
    Korean - South Korea
    Thank you very much, velisarius, for your kind explanation.
    It must be almost impossible for me to understand this sentence without help from everyone here including you.
     
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