Is "It's worth reading the book." incorrect?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by cheshire, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    I read that "It's worth reading the book." is considered wrong. They say that you can say "Something is worth doing what." but can't say "It is worth doing something." where "it" is an expletive. That even if "it" is a deixis, it's a wrong sentence.

    Do you agree with that explanation?
  2. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    No, I don't agree, nor does Cambridge Dictionary

    2 be worth having/doing sth to be important or useful to have or do:
    There's nothing worth reading in this newspaper.
    If you are a young, inexperienced driver, it is worth having comprehensive insurance.
    It's worth remembering that prices go up on February 1st.
  3. nzseries1

    nzseries1 Senior Member

    New Zealand - English
    I'm not going to even pretend for a second that I have the slightest inkling of what a deixis is, so I can't say if the expression is right or wrong. But, the expression certainly is common, and I would use it without hesitation.
  4. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Well said! It's worth remembering that many grammar books, both those by known authorities, and the ones penned by self-appointed "experts", call things right and wrong on the basis of rules unknown and unheeded by the large majority of native speakers. Many of these rules, it's worth noting, are nothing but stylistic preferences or musty old wives' tales that have become well established in the canon of nonsense that has been repeated so often that some people accept its validity.
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Cheshire, can you give us a bit more context? Why and in what circumstances does your book say this construction is wrong? And what do you mean by "expletive" and "deixis" here? I can't see 'it' here as an example of either...

  6. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    expletive: "It's crucial that we arrest Jack Bauer." In this sentence, "it" is not a deixis, but an expletive. It refers to "that we arrest Jack Bauer."

    anaphoric: "I have detected the location of Jack's car. It's a secret." In this sentence, "it" is anaphoric.

    cataphoric: "I'm going to tell you about this CTU agent, Jack Bauer." If this is a sentence in a book, "this" is cataphoric.

    deictic: "Look at that sentox gas canister!" "that" is deictic.


    So, "It's worth reading the book." is alright to use. Is the "it" an expletive, or deictic (or anaphoric)? In other words, is the referent of "it" empty, directy pointing something, or pointing something aformentioned?

    Take a look at this: *It's worth doing this. *Doing this is worth.

    Is there any evidence that "It's worth doing." used to be considered wrong English?
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi again, cheshire

    I've checked my 1970 (Second Edition) "Fowler's Modern English Usage"; and yes, Fowler disliked this construction, saying that it left 'worth' without an object. He would have preferred: "The book is worth reading" or "It is worth while to read the book".

    I don't have the Third Edition of "Modern English Usage", but I imagine it will say something different on this point.

    For me, "It's worth reading the book" is much more idiomatic than "It is worth while to read the book", which I would say is actually now incorrect:(

  8. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    From your explanation, Cheshire, it seems to me that "it" is an expletive referring to "reading the book".
    The sentence "It's worth reading the book" seems idiomatic to me, but studying it I think can see the grammatical problem. There are alternatives if you need them:
    The book is worth reading.
    Reading the book is worth while.
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Sorry, cheshire, I've realised that I didn't answer your question about what the it in "it's worth reading the book" refers to.

    This issue was at the heart of Fowler's disapproval of the construction. He saw it here as anticipating the subject of the sentence ('expletive' in the terminology you're using): thus, in his view, a sentence such as:

    (A) It is worth reading the book

    was equivalent to

    (B) *Reading the book is worth

    and because (B) was incorrect {it still is} he argued that (A) was also incorrect.

    I don't think it in "it's worth reading the book" would now be seen as expletive; and it's not deictic.

    It is, I would say, just an impersonal subject: like the it in "it's raining".

  10. cheshire

    cheshire Senior Member

    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    Expletive "it" [or "anticipatory 'it'"]: liliput and Fowler
    Impersonal "it": Loob
    Thanks lilyput and Loob, and other contributors. And big thanks for Loob who consulted Fowler's MEU and gave me her guidance.
  11. Ryuman New Member

    Expletive words are those which don't add meaning to the sentence despite performing a syntactic role as the word "it" in "It is raining" or in "It is worth reading the book" but IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THE EXPRESSION IS INCORRECT.

  12. starun008 New Member

    #1 It is a worth seeing movie and you must not miss it.

    #2 It is a movie worth seeing and you must not miss it.

    Are both these sentences correct?
  13. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I'm afraid not. Only 2) is correct, starun.

    I don't think I could say "It's worth reading the book."
  14. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    It would depend on the context surely:

    'What do you think of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?'

    'The film is awful, but it's worth reading the book.'


    'I have seen Inception but I can't understand the plot at all.'

    'It's worth reading the review in the Observer if you want a simple explanation.'

Share This Page