Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

You are my constant reminder that promises are made to be broken.

Is this correct?

I'm also thinking of placing a 'the' before 'promises' as in:

You are my constant reminder that the promises are made to be broken.

Are both sentences correct? Please help.

share|improve this question
2  
This could be helpful: ell.stackexchange.com/a/17433/3281. –  Damkerng T. Jun 17 at 0:47
    
@DamkerngT very clear explanation –  user3709296 Jun 17 at 3:54

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You are my constant reminder that promises are made to be broken.

This is correct. Promises are made to be broken is a common axiom in English. This sentence says the behavior of you constantly reminds the speaker of the truth of the maxim. Presumably you frequently makes and breaks promises.

You are my constant reminder that the promises are made to be broken.

Adding the makes promises refer to some specific set of promises made by you to the speaker. This phrasing sounds odd because promises are made is a strange conjugation in this case. Are made refers to a current, ongoing act of creation which lasts over a significant amount of time. Making a promise is a single, simple action. If there's a specific set of promises (whether broken or not), then they were made in the past, are being made right now, or will be made in the future. Technically, this is correct, but it's extremely unusual, because people don't continually make the same promise over a long period of time.

Use the first statement. Without the, promises refers to all promises, and it's fair to say that promises in general continue to be made. Either way (with or without the article), those involved in the conversation will understand from the context which promises exactly were broken.

share|improve this answer
    
(clap) Thank you! :) –  user80376 Jun 17 at 0:43
    
It's extremely likely that without the, we're probably talking about promises the person being addressed habitually makes but does not keep. But we can only guess at possible referents for the weirdly specific the promises. It's possible they were promises made by the speaker, to "you" (but which for some reason the speaker does not honour). Or some specific promises made by a third party - to either or both of the conversants, or even to a completely different person or people. In practice, the phrasing is so weird it's most likely just a non-native speaker getting it wrong. –  FumbleFingers Jun 17 at 2:25
    
@FumbleFingers What about "You are my constant reminder that all the promises are made to be broken". Does this one make sense? We are taught that 'the' is appropriate when talking about every single instance of something that exists e.g."all the money in the world" –  zespri Jun 17 at 9:00

The first is correct.

The second, while grammatically correct, doesn't make much sense. When you say "the promises," you are talking about a specific, well defined group of promises. Your sentence reads more like: The promises [that we made to each other] are made to be broken.

share|improve this answer

This:

You are my constant reminder that promises are made to be broken

Makes more sense than:

You are my constant reminder that the promises are made to be broken.

Without additional context.

That is because when you add 'the', it implies there are specific promises which the reader would know about which were made to be broken. If your intention is to infer a specific set of promises the reader would have knowledge of were made to be broken, then the second one is the one you want but with the past tense.

Having said that, I would like to add the word 'that' is unnecessary in either form of the sentence. Both instances work fine without it.

You are my constant reminder promises are made to be broken

You are my constant reminder the promises were made to be broken

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.