Which form of this sentence is correct?

The sentences of this article are hard for the reader to understand.

The sentences of this article are hard for the reader to be understood.

I, personally, feel the second one is more grammatically correct while the first one is more fluent.

Please provide reason for which one I should use.

4 Answers 4


The sentences of this article are hard for the reader to understand.

To understand relates to the reader understanding "the sentences", here. No ambiguity exists here; this is the only logical interpretation.

The sentences of this article are hard for the reader to be understood.

To be understood has some issues here. There are two possibilities of where it attaches:

  • the sentences of this article - which seems to be the meaning you intend
  • the reader - is the reader misunderstood? Since "to be understood" is close in the sentence to "the reader", and could describe the situation existing with "the reader", this may be how the sentence is taken by default - but this interpretation doesn't seem very sensible, so it's confusing. (For a similar but valid construct, consider Loud noises make it hard for the speaker to be understood.)

Therefore, I would go with the first version. It is perfectly grammatical, and it makes logical sense.

The sentence could also be phrased thus:

The sentences of this article are hard to understand for the reader.


The sentences of this article are hard to be understood by the reader.

Notice the prepositional change in the second rephrasing. (For doesn't seem to work here.) I still don't like this version but at least its intention is clearer.

Lastly, consider the briefest rephrasing of all:

This article's sentences are hard to understand.

This saves several words and removes all ambiguity (except, perhaps, that now I allow for listeners to have the same misinterpretation, but I don't think that harms it a bit).

  • "article's" looks like to be alive.
    – Stephen
    Jun 27, 2017 at 1:59
  • "To understand is a function of the object". Could you please advise a link to study function of the object and see more examples of it?
    – Stephen
    Jun 27, 2017 at 2:03
  • @Stephen I misphrased this and have corrected it. Jun 27, 2017 at 2:14
  • Thanks a lot. Still, it is a bit hard for me to understand. Would you please advise more example similar to the case of this problem?
    – Stephen
    Jun 27, 2017 at 2:22
  • "The sentences...are hard to understand." "Understand" describes the state of the sentences, that they are difficult to comprehend. This is an extremely common phrasing in English: "The bones in this fish make it difficult for the diner to eat"; "The poor running condition of this vehicle makes it hard for me to drive", ... Jun 27, 2017 at 2:29

They mean different things. I believe the first sentence was what the writer of this sentence was going for.

The sentences of this article are hard for the reader to understand.

...that the reader finds it hard to understand the sentences of this article.

While both sentences are technically correct, the second one makes almost no sense. I say almost because there is a case where the sentences themselves are about a reader, although a better way to phrase that would be

The sentences of this article make it hard for the reader to be understood..


“the sentences are hard” or “to understand the sentences is hard”?

In my opinion, "hard" is a word describing feelings of creatures, only creatures can feel hard. So it can be re-write like this:It’s hard for the reader to understand the sentences of this article.


The construction "For (person A) to (verb)" indicates that person A is the one performing the verb. So in your first sentence, the reader needs to understand the sentences, but finds it difficult. This is a natural and obvious situation.

The construction "For (person A) to be (verbed)" indicates that someone else is performing the verb on person A. (That is, person A is the target or recipient of the action, rather than the performer of it.) So in your second sentence, someone needs to understand the reader, but finds it difficult to do so, because of the sentences. This is acceptable if the reader is reading the article out loud to another listener, but that is a less obvious situation and should be spelled out by prior context.

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