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I wrote the following sentence, but I am not sure it is correct.

All the moderators asking for blacklisting a tag would not probably cause the tag being blacklisted.

Is it correct to use the tag being blacklisted after cause? In Italian, where I could not use a noun as a verb*, I would probably say causerebbe l'aggiunta del tag alla lista dei tag bloccati (which is roughly equivalent to would cause the addition of the tag to the list of the blocked tags). The equivalent phrase in English seems too long, even when I replace to the list of the blocked tags with to the blacklist.

What is a more correct way of rephrasing that sentence?

* What I mean is that, for example, the Italian translation of list as noun is lista (or elenco); in English list is also the bare infinite of a verb, but in Italian the infinite of the verb would be elencare (not listare), since the infinite always ends in -are, -ere, or -ire.

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  • Not probably is grammatical, but probably not is the unmarked form, appearing over 100 times more often in COCA. Here, would not probably is grammatical but unnatural.
    – user230
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 18:26
  • @snailboat It occurs to me that this is useful for emphasis in a construction like: No, he {wouldn't | would not} probably do it, he would certainly do it. The binding of the "not" is different and doesn't refer to the probability of the inaction, but rather criticizes the other speaker's assessment of probability.
    – Kaz
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 19:57

2 Answers 2

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In this construction, cause takes three complements:

  1. subject
  2. object
  3. to-infinitival clause

Compare the following examples:

He caused it to rain.     ( He1 causedverb it2 [ to rain ]3. )

*He caused it raining.   ( He1 causedverb it2 *raining3. )

The former is fine, but the latter is ungrammatical. The third complement must be a to-infinitival clause, not a gerund.


In your example, the tag is fine. But being blacklisted is a gerund, so it doesn't work as the third complement.

Here's one way to rephrase your sentence:

Even if all the moderators asked for a tag to be blacklisted, it would probably not cause it to be blacklisted.

Here, I think the repetition of to be blacklisted is slightly unnatural, but I left it in because it's part of the construction we're discussing. I think I would personally phrase it like this:

Even if all the moderators asked for a tag to be blacklisted, it probably wouldn't happen.

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  • Kaz's answer seems fine to me, but I decided to finish my own and post it anyway.
    – user230
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 18:18
  • This is good, and it's significant that we agree that "Even" is called for in the improved sentence.
    – Kaz
    Commented Nov 21, 2013 at 19:39
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  • cause + to verb:

    "Even all the moderators asking {for the blacklisting of a tag | for a tag to be blacklisted } would probably not cause {the tag | it} to be blacklisted" [Note both corrections.]

    "Bad engineering caused the bridge to collapse."

  • cause + noun phrase:

    "Smoking causes cancer."

    "Low octane fuel causes knocking."

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