It was careless of me forgetting to turn off the lights.

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taked4700

Senior Member
japanese japan
Hi,

Are the sentences below idomatic?

1. It's careless of me forgetting to turn off the lights.

2. It was careless of me forgetting to turn off the lights.

3. It's careless of me to forget to turn off the lights.

4. It was careless of me to forget to turn off the lights.

I guess 1 and 2 are less idiomatic than 3 and 4. Am I right?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, Tannen2004.

    When 'always" is added, how do you paraphrase the sentence?

    Does "It's careless of me always forgetting to turn off the lights." sound natural?

    Thanks in advance.
     

    Bilbon

    Member
    English
    Hi Taked,

    I think your sentence works and would pass for natural although the construct of the sentence is a little awkward. I think a natural speaker would be more likely to say something along the lines of:

    "I'm so careless, I always forget to turn off the lights."

    But that would be open to debate. Remember that if the sentence were to change to include 'it was' you couldn't use always as it would sound too strange.

    Hope that helps
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Tannen is answering from an AE perspective, but I have a couple of BE colleagues who would say the first two sentences, with minor changes.

    Hi,

    Are the sentences below idomatic?

    1. It's careless of me, forgetting to turn off the lights. This is an ongoing action.

    2. It was careless of me, forgetting to turn off the lights. This is a single action, in the past.

    3. It's careless of me to forget to turn off the lights. This is an ongoing action.

    4. It was careless of me to forget to turn off the lights. This is a single action, in the past.
     
    Tannen is answering from an AE perspective, but I have a couple of BE colleagues who would say the first two sentences, with minor changes.
    I think one could use these sentences, with the comma Cypherpunk describes, in AE as well. It's a fairly common construction:

    It was foolish of me, imagining that you would be home on a Saturday night.

    It was clever of you, figuring out the answer to that riddle.


    While I agree that "to forget to" is probably more common in AE than "..., forgetting to," the latter is not exclusive to BE and could be used naturally by a speaker of AE.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I think one could use these sentences, with the comma Cypherpunk describes, in AE as well. It's a fairly common construction:

    It was foolish of me, imagining that you would be home on a Saturday night.

    It was clever of you, figuring out the answer to that riddle.


    While I agree that "to forget to" is probably more common in AE than "..., forgetting to," the latter is not exclusive to BE and could be used naturally by a speaker of AE.
    I wish I had a greater grammatical vocabulary at my disposal, but I'm almost sure these sentences require the infinitive "to imagine" and "to figure." Perhaps it's the expletive "it" that makes it so. Both sentences are correct for me if the gerunds start the sentence, i.e., Imagining that you would come home on a Saturday night was foolish of me." But that requires the dropping of the "it."
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    "It was careless of me always forgetting to turn off the lights" sounds like a perfectly good sentence to me. I used to always forget to turn off the lights, which was careless of me.

    A comma fits, but it makes the gerund phrase into a parenthetical appositive, an explanation of it. Without the comma, the it is just a placeholder and the gerund phrase is a delayed subject.

    Infinitives are very common as delayed subjects, but any long or complex subject is a candidate for being delayed this way. To me, "always forgetting to turn off the lights" is long enough, but just "forgetting the lights" would not be. On the other hand, "It was easy turning on the lights" works for me because the delayed subject is enough longer than "easy".

    In other words, it is a matter more of esthetics than of grammar. To me, the original sentence 2 is workable.

    The following are similar ways to express this subject:

    A. Forgettting to turn off the lights.
    B. To forget turning off the lights.
    C. To forget to turn off the lights.
    D. Forgetting turning off the lights.

    The meaning is not exactly the same, but close. In general I would not hesitate to say A or B, and I prefer A to C. I would avoid D, but I do not consider it wrong.

    I would not change "forgetting" to "to forget" in either of the following constructions:

    It was forgetting to turn off the lights that was careless of me.
    What was careless of me was forgetting to turn off the lights.

     
    Last edited:

    taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, all the contributors.

    Let me make sure some points.

    1. "Imagining that you would come home on a Saturday night was foolish of me."

    As a learner of English in Japan, I suppose most of the teachers in Japan would say that the subject of this sentense is too long and it is a necessity to rephrase this as "It was foolish of me imagining/to imagine that you would come home on a Saturday night." What do you say to this?

    2. Whether commas are needed or not;

    I cannot tell which is right or not. I'd like to wait and see what other English native speakers say.

    3. Bilbon's comment of "if the sentence were to change to include 'it was' you couldn't use always as it would sound too strange".

    Does this mean it is too strange to say, "It was always careless of me..."?

    Thanks in advance.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi, Taken4700.

    1. I do not think it is accurate to say that this subject is too long to be first in a sentence. What makes me want to rewrite this particular sentence is the fact that the "imagining" is too far away from the person doing the imagining, "me". It is perfectly natural to say:

    My imagining that you would come home on a Saturday night was foolish.
    or
    I was foolish in imagining that you would come home on a Saturday night.

    In the original sentence, "foolish" was brought forward for emphasis.

    2. The comma is needed if the phrase is meant as an aside, whether a gerund or an infinitive. If the subject is merely delayed, using dummy it, no comma is needed. Some subjects do seem unnatural with dummy it, but I don't think there is a solid rule about what is or is not natural.

    3. Always is probably an exaggeration in this sentence, not to be taken too literally. Instead of "always forgetting" you could say "forgetting so often". There is something to be said for saying exactly what you mean.

    "It was always careless of me ..." seems an odd thing to say and is probably not what you mean.

    I hope I am not speaking out of turn.
     

    taked4700

    Senior Member
    japanese japan
    Thank you, Forero.

    Excuse me for not responding to your answer quickly.

    I was wondering whether my sense about the sentence of "It was always careless of me..." could be justified or not, which means that I couldn't understand at first why the sentence is not idiomatic.

    Having spent some days, I guess I could reach a conclusion that I might be able to understand the logic.

    The construction "It is adjective of person..." is used to spotlight the action itself rather than who does/did it or how the action is/was evaluated.

    Let me take an example.

    It is kind of you to try to cheer me up.

    This seems to state that "to try to cheer me up" is the most importanct matter for the speaker and it doesn't matter so much who does it and how it is valuated as well.

    If "always" is added before "kind of you", this word is used as an exaggeration, as you already pointed out, this addition makes the part "It is always kind of you" spotlighted and also makes the sentence end up having two parts stressed, which violates a general rule of one sentence usually having only one part spotlighted.

    So, adding "always" before "kind of you" makes the sentence unidiomatic.

    Does this guessing make sense?

    Thanks in advance.
     
    Last edited:

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I think all of these sentences are idiomatic, including the ones with always. The following sentences, based on your example, are also idiomatic:

    1. You are kind (in/for) trying to cheer me up.
    2. Your trying to cheer me up is kind.
    3. Trying to cheer me up is kind (of you).
    4. It is kind of you trying to cheer me up.

    5. You are kind to try to cheer me up.
    6. For you to try to cheer me up is kind.
    7. To try to cheer me up is kind (of you).
    8. It is kind of you to try to cheer me up.

    To me, each of these is acceptable for speaking and writing, sentence 4 is a little confusing compared to 3, and sentence 7 is a little rough compared with 8.

    The construct "It is/was ... of me/you/etc. ..." is like the passive voice: it is indirect style, used to hide or de-emphasize something. Instead of directly saying "I lost my keys" or "I was careless", we can say "My keys were lost (by me)" or "It was careless (of me)". It is poor writing style to say everything indirectly, but a indirect style, when called for, is fine.



    In general:
    • The person as subject is more direct than the action as subject.
    • Putting the subject first is more direct than delaying the subject.
    • The gerund is more direct than the infinitive.
    • Beginning with an infinitive is unusual.
    • The choice of infinitive or gerund is complicated by the fact that both forms have other uses that may add ambiguity or make the sentence a little hard to interpret:
    It is kind of you to try to cheer me up. [Is "to try" adverbial?]
    It is kind of you trying to cheer me up. [Does "trying" modify "you"?]

    The answer to both bracketed questions here is no: the infinitive or gerund here is meant to be the delayed subject. The inherent ambiguities of both forms, and of the dummy it itself, can sometimes create difficulties for the reader/listener.

    In the sentences we have been considering here, I think the ambiguities are negligible.
     
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