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? Oct 10, 2017 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, 2017 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. Oct 11, 2017 at 2:53

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Further, "mistakenly" modified "believed", indicating that the belief was in error.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 11, 2017 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, 2019 at 7:43

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