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I was reading an essay written by one of my colleagues. He used following sentence in his essay:

The matter which needs food for thought is who should take responsibility for the young ones.

I think the phrase "food for thought" can only be preceded by words such as provide or give. For example,

The matter which provides food for thought is who should take responsibility for the young ones.

However, in the above sentence, he meant that the matter which should be delved further is "who actually among the parents should take responsibility for the young ones.", so here " provides food for thought" can't be used.

His entire para was as follows:

Nature has blessed females with extraordinary qualities, which help them in taking care of their child. However, in the modern era where both of the parents are finding it difficult to juggle the two responsibilities: office work and providing care to the child, the matter which needs food for thought is who should take responsibility for the young ones.

If the idiom "food for thought" is not suitable in this context, please suggest which idiom can be used in its place.

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As with any language, a native English writer can put together almost any combination of words to form creative, clever, or interesting sentences.

However, this is not one of those sentences. While it certainly is permissible to say "needs food for thought", the entire phrase

[with both parents juggling work and home life] the matter which needs food for thought is who should take responsibility for the young ones.

is excessively wordy. You could phrase it instead as any of these:

... food for thought is, who should ...

... the question is, who should ...

... the parents need to figure out who should ...

or even simply:

[with both parents juggling work and home life], who should take responsibility for the young ones?

There's an art to writing well -- using the right words, and no extraneous words, to convey your intended meaning. If you see similarly "clunky" expressions in the future, recognize they are simply artless and not ungrammatical.

  • I also think that word "extraordinary" is not suitable in the context of this sentence: "Nature has blessed females with extraordinary qualities,". Here writer should use some other adjective so that this sentence should mean that qualities expected from a parent. For example, "Nature has blessed females with necessary and exclusive qualities, which help them in taking care of their child." Could you please suggest a better adjective here? – abhijeet pathak Sep 21 '17 at 11:42
  • I checked the meaning of "food for thought" from Oxford dictionary, which is as follows: "food for thought PHRASE Something that warrants serious consideration." So as per this sentence, word "need" seems redundant as its meaning is already there in the meaning of "food for thought". user3169 has also supported this point. – abhijeet pathak Sep 21 '17 at 11:49
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    @abhijeetpathak "Extraordinary" is indeed a curious choice, given that slightly over 50% of the population are women, most of whom have those qualities. So I'd call these perfectly ordinary. But that's a purely semantic argument as "extraordinary" reflects the author's opinion. – Andrew Sep 21 '17 at 13:36
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    @abhijeetpathak Yes, that's my point. You can use "matter" or "need" or "food for thought" but using all three is gratuitous verbiage. – Andrew Sep 21 '17 at 13:38
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Think of it this way:

Some kind of thinking or discussion can be food for thought, followed by the deeper consideration (the thought).

food for thought is not a discussion in itself, but rather a link phrase indicating some matter needs further consideration.
So it cannot be used as in the example phrases.

Your example might be :

The matter which needs/requires further consideration is who should take responsibility for the young ones. They depend on the guidance of their parents. That is food for thought.

meaning one should consider the role of parenting more deeply.

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