I just find a sentence in NYTimes quite uncomfortable even though it reads quite smooth and articulate. I never saw that kind of sentence structure as following.

By putting off repairs that it mistakenly believed were not critical, Amtrak set the stage for two of the derailments.

Can anyone help me explain the role of "it mistakenly believed"? Thanks.

  • It refers forward to Amtrak. Does substituting Amtrak for the it clarify things for you? – green_ideas Oct 10 '17 at 20:53
  • Have you seen Oxford Dictionaries' definition of "mistakenly"? Does that help any, or do you have more questions after viewing the definition and examples there? – sumelic Oct 10 '17 at 21:10
  • It doesn't have a single role. It's the subject it (meaning Amtrak), and adverb mistakenly, and main verb believed of the clause [it mistakenly believed] (that the repairs) were not critical. [it mistakenly believed] is not a constituent, but a connected piece of the beginning of a Verb Phrase constituent, and therefore there isn't a special name for it. – John Lawler Oct 11 '17 at 2:53

it mistakenly believed

It = A subject, later referred to in the sentence by its proper name, Amtrak.

Mistakenly = The adverb form of 'Mistaken'.

Believed = The verb 'believe', in past tense.

The structure subject-adverb-verb is pretty grammatically common in English.

| improve this answer | |
  • Further, "mistakenly" modified "believed", indicating that the belief was in error. – Hot Licks Oct 11 '17 at 2:01
  • The question is not about the words in the phrase, but rather it's about the role of the phrase in the sentence. – dwilli Apr 21 '19 at 7:43

Your Answer

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