He was unclear (about) what...

qizi

Senior Member
Chinese
He was unclear (about) what they are looking for.
I searched in google and found that the sentences with "about" and without "about" both have many entries. Are both correct sentences? Thank you.
 
  • Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    Here it's better to have "about." If the sentence were impersonal (ie. "It's unclear what they're looking for") then you don't need it.
     

    qizi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks, Tazzler, but could you explain more to me? Why does "he" require an "about" and not the other way around? Thank you again.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    I guess it's because "clear" has a distinct sense here. If the subject is a person, then "clear" means "understanding, certain" as in "I'm not very clear on the instructions". Now that I think about it, "on" seems more common and sounds a little better, but I wouldn't rule out "about." But in this sense I would always include one of the prepositions.
     

    qizi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks. But I have seen a similar example of "sure" in an English newspaper. He said he was not sure "what they are looking for." Here, the sentence is not impersonal, and "sure" not followed by a preposition. I got confused again.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I agree with Tazzler that "on" is a natural preposition after "clear". I also agree that using it with a preposition sounds better. Using it without one suggests hurried, unplanned speech.
     
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