Something/It is difficult to do / be done??

exc1ter1

New Member
Greek
Hello! I've got stuck on the expressions:

It's difficult to do. / It's difficult to be done.
I mean, when I use "it" do we always use "to do"? (I think yes, when "it" is undefined: it's difficult for somebody to do)

And what happens when we have a specific subject.
For example,
The tiger in the jungle is difficult to be seen. (The tiger cannot be seen by us because it's hidden)
Whereas,
The tiger in the jungle is difficult to see. (I understand that the tiger cannot see)

I have searched in the forum that this is correct:
The book is difficult to read.
But I don't understand why? I mean the book cannot be read. (We don't say the book cannot read)

In general, I would like to learn when we use active/passive voice after such expressions (sub verb adj to + ? ) Do the linking verbs play a role?

Thank you very much in advance.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, exc1ter1.

    It's difficult to do. / It's difficult to be done.
    "It's difficult to do" is the normal way to say this.
    I mean, when I use "it" do we always use "to do"? (I think yes, when "it" is undefined: it's difficult for somebody to do)
    I don't think the pronoun "it" has anything to do with the infinitive used in the phrase "difficult to do".

    The tiger in the jungle is difficult to be seen. (The tiger cannot be seen by us because it's hidden)
    This isn't a normal sentence in English.
    The tiger in the jungle is difficult to see. (I understand that the tiger cannot see)
    Your thinking on this topic is wrong. That sentence doesn't say anything about the tiger's ability to see. It says that an observer finds it difficult to see the tiger. Maybe the tiger is hiding in some bushes.

    The book is difficult to read.
    This is a normal sentence. People who want to read this book will find it difficult to read. Maybe it uses a lot of strange words. Maybe the writer wasn't any good, so the grammar in the book is all messed up. Whatever the reason, it is hard for people to read.

    In general, I would like to learn when we use active/passive voice after such expressions (sub verb adj to + ? ) Do the linking verbs play a role?
    I'm not sure I understand your question, but I can tell you that linking verbs are common in sentences that use infinitive phrases in the predicate: That gun is hard to shoot. This problem seems hard to solve. That tune was really easy to play.
     

    exc1ter1

    New Member
    Greek
    Thank you very much!

    I'm not sure I understand your question, but I can tell you that linking verbs are common in sentences that use infinitive phrases in the predicate: That gun is hard to shoot. This problem seems hard to solve. That tune was really easy to play.
    As far as I see from your examples is that we use only active voice, I mean to shoot, to solve, to play.. We never use to be solved, to be.... Therefore, maybe we could conclude that with linking verbs we use only active voice.
    Could someone think an example using passive voice, a counterexample?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I agree with you that people don't use things like "This problem is hard to be solved." That's just unnatural, and fluent English-speakers don't talk that way.
     

    exc1ter1

    New Member
    Greek
    Finally, I found a grammar rule saying that we use active infinitive phrase after adjectives which discribe how easy or difficult something may be.
    However, I would like to know if this sentence is right:
    These flowers are very beautiful to be put in a vase.
    Or:
    These flowers are very beautiful to put in a vase.
    Thank you very much!!
     

    rc@China

    New Member
    Chinese
    It so happened that I searched the same question and found this page, though it was posted 4 years ago. Guess the questioner has already forgotten having asked a question in this forum?
    Well, as a Chinese, I actually understand well about your point. There is no passive invoice in Chinese, compared with English. Neither in Greek?
    So regarding your question, we can understand it in this way: "it is difficult/easy to do homework" can also be expressed as "to do home work is difficult/easy" and "homework is difficult/easy to do". Although "to do" is in the form of active voice, it actually conveys passive voice. It's like a fixed expression, which may differ from our own thinking pattern in the mother language.

    Thank exc1ter1 for expressing this question clearly, and thank owlman5 for letting us know how native speakers think about the wrong expression, helping me understand this "difficult" issue better.

    Good luck to you~!
     
    Last edited:

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It might be helpful to understand this construction as:

    This handwriting is difficult (for anybody) to read.
    The tiger is difficult (for anybody) to see.
    The problem is hard (for anybody) to solve.

    The sentences in #6 don't make sense, I'm afraid.

    Some common adjectives used with the infinitive are "easy, simple, difficult, hard, awkward, tricky, complicated..." More rarely, you will see expressions like "The transformation was wondrous to behold".

    With "too + adjective", there is a lot more freedom: Those flowers are too beautiful to pick. (The flowers are so beautiful that it would be a shame to pick them.)
     
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