1

In Political Ideals (1917) the eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote

The times through which we are passing have afforded to many of us a confirmation of our faith.

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary includes the structure afford somebody something with this example:

The programme affords young people the chance to gain work experience.

Has Russell used the same structure, conveying a similar meaning?

  • Interesting.... I think it's the same structure, but the usage of to in Bertrand Russell's sentence seems unnecessary and confusing. – JavaLatte Aug 27 '17 at 20:33
  • This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put. ))) – Mv Log Aug 27 '17 at 20:53
2

Yes. Both structures are standardly available with ditransitive verbs, and have exactly the same meaning. For example:

  • I gave the book to the teacher.

  • I gave the teacher the book.

  • That's right, but some may think that afford to somebody something is a standard phrasing while afford seems to be a verb which can't readily afford to have a preposition between itself and an object—I've found only four instances in 20 dictionaries. – Mv Log Aug 27 '17 at 22:35
  • @MvLog how old were these dictionaries? Russell wrote this in 1917, and English has somewhat evolved over the past 100 years. His sentence sounds stilted and old-fashioned to my (modern) ears, but it's in no way ungrammatical. – Andrew Aug 28 '17 at 5:40
  • 1
    @Andrew I meant modern dictionaries. All of them cite afford somebody something as the only variant. – Mv Log Aug 28 '17 at 5:43
  • 1
    @MvLog be aware that modern English would probably sound intolerably slovenly to many in 1917, particularly educated British gentlemen like Russell, who might have considered the "to" to be absolutely necessary. – Andrew Aug 28 '17 at 5:47
  • 1
    It's not normally acceptable, @Arham. I think in Russell's example, heavy element extraposition is operating. – Colin Fine Aug 28 '17 at 21:10
2

It is the same structure. By using afford, he means give or supply, which is the same for both examples.

The times through which we are passing have given many of us a confirmation of our faith.

The times through which we are passing have supplied many of us a confirmation of our faith.

I also question the use of to. When using an indirect pronoun (us), to is unnecessary because that's what it represents (to us). Many learners find asking questions helpful in these situations:

Given what? A confirmation of our faith (direct object).

To whom? Many of us (indirect object).

  • What about "Pile in!" he said to us all with a smile.? Is the to unnecessary here? – Mv Log Aug 27 '17 at 22:12
  • @MvLog No, you must say something to someone. If the sentence said he told us all with a smile, then yes, to us is unnecessary. – Kman3 Aug 28 '17 at 1:57
  • Then, your generalisation (using an indirect pronoun (us), to is unnecessary because that's what it represents (to us)) is wrong. It's complicated part of English—some verbs require a preposition, some don't, some can't. – Mv Log Aug 28 '17 at 5:33
  • @MvLog Nope - when you have a sentence that has us by itself, to is unnecessary because that's what it represents: to us. I didn't say that all uses of us never require uses of to. – Kman3 Aug 28 '17 at 16:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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