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The new employee was ____ a failure.

a. considered

b. decided

c. established

d. believed

I think only possible options are considered and believed and I think the answer is considered. Because this word is mostly used in these contexts and if I use believed it sounds like there is prejudice against the new employee even before he did his job.

So, am I missing something?

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You might check other sentences using these words. If you can't see some differences, you might add one of each to your question. – user3169 Mar 19 at 19:21
Who wrote this test? – Gandalf Mar 19 at 22:24
"and if I use believe it sounds like there is prejudice against the new employee even before he did his job," So what? You shouldn't rule out an answer just because you think its meaning is politically incorrect. It's a perfectly grammatical English sentence. In British English, "considered" and "believed" would both be good answers. – alephzero Mar 19 at 23:00
If the a were immediately after was the best answer would be The new employee was a decided failure. – AlanCarmack Mar 20 at 1:35
A better question to ask yourself, Gandalf is, why is this question suggested for me to read? =) – mathreadler Mar 20 at 13:30
up vote 13 down vote accepted

If the sentence was “The new employee was ____ to be a failure” then all four verbs would be possible:

  • considered: after doing some thinking (maybe not a lot of thinking), people reached the conclusion that the new employee was a failure.
  • decided: similar, but the conclusion was reached after some reasoning.
  • established: something happened that proved (or at least exhibited some evidence) that the new employee was a failure.
  • believed: similar to considered, but the conclusion was reached without necessarily doing any thinking or having any actual basis.

However the only one of these verbs with which the sentence still sounds idiomatic without “to be” is considered. For example, in the Cambridge English Dictionary, contrast the construction of believe “[+ obj + to infinitive]” with consider “[+ obj + (to be) + noun/adj]”.

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I would add that if you put "to be" in it, that would make it seem as though they (whoever that is) expected the new employee to be a failure. – Sam Harrington Mar 19 at 20:04
As a native speaker of AmE, I could imagine writing "was believed a failure," but it would sound more formal and less idiomatic than "was considered a failure." – Kevin Mar 19 at 21:47
"Was decided to be" isn't idiomatic British English. "It was decided that the new employee was a failure" would be more natural (but that doesn't fit the OP's sentence, of course). – alephzero Mar 19 at 22:56
@SamHarrington - I would have to disagree: "After three months probation, the new employee was considered to be a failure"... this implies that the employee was given the opportunity to prove themselves (without any prior bias), but failed to do so. At least in British English, this is what I would infer. – Greenonline Mar 20 at 6:35
Oh yes I agree, I thought that it was in a different context than you just described – Sam Harrington Mar 21 at 17:37

Without the (arguably, more natural sounding) to be as suggested by Gilles in his answer, the only option which fits idiomatically, is option (a):

The new employee was considered a failure

The other three options would require "to be" after them.

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Why the only option that fits grammatically? The other options don't sound idiomatic to me, but I don't see what grammatical reason allows omitting to be for one verb and not for the others. – Gilles Mar 20 at 12:23

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