Having an affair ruins ... / It ruins ... to have [infinitive vs gerund]

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Yoshihiro

Member
Japanese
(1) Having an affair ruins a relationship.
(2) It ruins a relationship to have an affair.
Are both natural sentences?
What is the difference between these two?
 
  • pines222

    Member
    English - USA
    Either one is grammatically correct. There is no difference in meaning between the two.

    (1) is generally preferred because writing professionals usually say that the "indefinite it + [verb]" construct should be avoided in writing if a more concise alternative is possible.
     

    Yoshihiro

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi, I'd like to confirm what pines222 said.
    (1) For him to do it should result in a success.
    (2) It should result in a success for him to do it.
    (3) His doing it should result in success.
    Also in this case, (3) is generally preferred. Is it right?
     

    pines222

    Member
    English - USA
    (3) is best, although specifically "his doing it" sounds clunky. In this specific case, I would reword to say, "His actions should result in success."

    In many cases, it is desirable to replace "weak verb" gerunds (such as "having" and "doing"), if possible. For instance, in the original example, instead of saying, "Having an affair ruins a relationship," why not say, "An affair ruins a relationship." The word "having" is unnecessary.

    Gerunds work much better with more specific, powerful verbs, as in, "Killing him would be a crime." In this case, the gerund works and is effective.
     

    Yoshihiro

    Member
    Japanese
    Thanks again, pines222. Then, what do you think about these sentences?
    (1) For her to lose this match would be terrible.
    (2) It would be terrible for her to lose this match.
    (3) Her losing this match would be terrible.
    In this case, "be+adjective" is used. I think (2) is better than (1). And I feel (2) and (3) are both natural. 

    But in some cases, gerund is not likely to be used.
    [From "I have a dream" by Martin Luther King, Jr.]
    (4) It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.
    In this case, if gerund is used like
    "(5) The nation overlooking the urgency of the moment would be fatal."
    the subject of (5) is heavy in the sentence. So, (4) is better.

    If the subject is heavy in a sentence in the case like normal verb that is not be,
    I guess "It+[verb]+[(for~) to ~]" is better than "[verb-ing(gerund)] +[verb]".(Sorry, I can't hit upon an example.)
    *[verb] is verb except for be.

    Is it right?
     
    Last edited:

    pines222

    Member
    English - USA
    Among the first examples - better approach is: "Losing this match would be terrible for her."

    (5) is incorrect grammatically...you can't say "the nation...would be fatal". You could say, "Overlooking the urgency of the moment would be fatal for the nation," and that would be correct grammatically, and I would prefer that over (4) in a written document. But in a speech given by Martin Luther King, (4) sounds better. I don't know why.

    When you start talking about powerful, effective speeches, many of the rules of proper writing style get thrown out. Effective oratory and rhetoric have their own rules, and it is way beyond my knowledge to tell you why certain phrases work better in speeches, but not quite as well in written word or everyday usage.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    A simple rule in English, insofar as English has rules, is "keep it simple or sound stupid". If there is a simple way of saying something, use it. Once you are fluent in English you can start using alternative structures for deliberate effect.
    "Having an affair ruins a relationship." :thumbsup:

    (1) For him to do it should result in a success. :thumbsdown:
    (2) It should result in a success for him to do it. :thumbsdown::eek:
    (3) His doing it should result in success. (:thumbsup:) ("sounds clunky" :tick:)
    "His actions should result in success." :thumbsup:

    "It would be terrible for her to lose this match." :thumbsup: but "sounds clunky" unless there is a specific reason in the context to phrase it this way - that it is in some way losing the match would be terrible for her rather than that losing the match would be terrible.
    "It would be terrible if she lost this match" :thumbsup: = normal English.
    "The nation overlooking the urgency of the moment would be fatal." :eek: = dreadful.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    But in a speech given by Martin Luther King, (4) sounds better. I don't know why.
    It would also be effective in writing. It puts the emphasis on the important point "It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment." - the fatality to the nation of not acting.
     

    Yoshihiro

    Member
    Japanese
    My first examples:
    (1) Having an affair ruins a relationship.:thumbsup:
    (2) It ruins a relationship to have an affair.

    In this case (1) is preferred.

    My question:
    (3) It requires a lot of effort to engage in conversation at social gatherings with people I don't know:thumbsup:
    (4) Engaging in conversation at social gatherings with people I don't know requires a lot of effort.

    I think (3) is better because in (3) the relatively heavy subject is put to the end.
    In contrast, the relatively heavy subject comes first in the sentence (4).

    Am I right?
     
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