the Southwest border that President Bush has promoted as vital to securing it

Wookie

Senior Member
Korea, Korean
The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that cost overruns, legal obstacles and other problems were imperiling its goal of completing the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements on the Southwest border that President Bush has promoted as vital to securing it.

This is from an article in the New York Times. The article is about building the border fence.

I have trouble understanding the structure of the underlined phrase.
That can be rephrased as:
Bush has promoted the Southwest border as vital to securing it.

I'd like to know what "it" refers to.
 
  • Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    It refers to the Southwest border. In English you "secure a border," meaning you make it impenetrable to people or goods which you do not want crossing it.

    p.s. No matter how convoluted a sentence appears, journalists at major newspapers will always follow the rule that "it" refers to the most recent noun before it. Grammatically, there is no other option. "It" is closest to "border" in the sentence so that is what it refers to.
     

    Wookie

    Senior Member
    Korea, Korean
    Is "it" necessary?
    Bush has promoted the Southwest border as vital to securing the Southwest border.

    I think that should be "Bush has promoted the Southwest border fence as vital to securing the Southwest border.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong.
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    The "it" is necessary in the NYT sentence, yes. To shorten it, "Legal obstacles were imperiling the goal of erecting 670 miles of fencing along the Southwest border that President Bush has promoted as vital to securing it."

    Your sentence "Bush has promoted the Southwest border fence as vital to securing the Southwest border" is correct, though it is awkward to repeat border. That is why it is better to say "Bush has promoted the fence along the Southwest border as vital to securing it."

    see?
     

    Wookie

    Senior Member
    Korea, Korean
    Bush has promoted the Southwest border as vital to securing the Southwest border.

    So the Southwest border is the border fence and the Southwest border is the border, right?
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    Bush has promoted the Southwest border as vital to securing the Southwest border.

    So the Southwest border is the border fence and the Southwest border is the border, right?

    No. In these sentences the Southwest border means the geographical dividing line. Is that where you are getting confused here? Yes, a fence can be a type of "border" but in this case here they are talking about the geographical line.
     

    garywolf

    New Member
    chinese
    I think secure should be uesd here instead of securing, the "to" is a sign of infinitive, am I wrong?
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    The fence. Bush has promoted the fence, meaning he has advocated it. In your original sentence from the NYT, fence is also the object of promoted. Could this be the source of confusion?
     
    Last edited:

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    Bush has promoted the Southwest border as vital to securing the Southwest border.

    So the Southwest border is the border fence and the Southwest border is the border, right?
    I think secure should be uesd here instead of securing, the "to" is a sign of infinitive, am I wrong?
    Yes, you are wrong. Here's another example: Eating healthy food is vital to living a long life. You may be confusing it with other structures. For example: You need to eat healthy food in order to live a long life."
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I think secure should be uesd here instead of securing, the "to" is a sign of infinitive, am I wrong?
    To is sometimes the sign of the infinitive, but it has other uses as well. Here to is a preposition, and it indicates that "securing" is the goal or purpose of the fence.
     

    Wookie

    Senior Member
    Korea, Korean
    The fence. Bush has promoted the fence, meaning he has advocated it.
    Bush has prompted the fence as vital to securing the fence?

    I think the idea of "the fence is vital to securing the fence" does not make sense.
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    You could write the original sentence thusly, and perhaps more clearly:

    The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that cost overruns, legal obstacles and other problems were imperiling its goal of completing the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements that President Bush has promoted as vital to securing the Southwest border.
     

    Kevman

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There's more than just a fence. The goal that is imperiled is the completion of "the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements on the Southwest border." That entire noun phrase constitutes what "President Bush has promoted as vital to securing [the Southwest border]."
     

    Embonpoint

    Senior Member
    English--American
    There's more than just a fence. The goal that is imperiled is the completion of "the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements on the Southwest border." That entire noun phrase constitutes what "President Bush has promoted as vital to securing [the Southwest border]."

    Correct! He promoted the fence and the technological improvements.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Bush has promoted the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements as vital to securing the southwest border.

    The sentence says Bush has promoted that as vital to securing it. That and it cannot refer to the same thing. It must refer to something singular: the border, the goal of completing ..., or the Department of Homeland Security. That, the relative pronoun, can refer to any of these, to the fencing and improvements, or to the overruns, obstacles, and problems.

    The most reasonable choice is for it to refer to the nearest singular entity, the border, and for that to refer to the nearest other entity or entities, the fencing and improvements.
     
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