From another translation I know the sentence in boldface means that it's better to search among 'yourselves' instead of 'others'. But very easily I fall into the illusion that 'others' is the object and 'make the search' is the verb. How to make it clear?

Cebes answered with a smile: Then, Socrates, you must argue us out of our fears—and yet, strictly speaking, they are not our fears, but there is a child within us to whom death is a sort of hobgoblin: him too we must persuade not to be afraid when he is alone in the dark.

Socrates said: Let the voice of the charmer be applied daily until you have charmed away the fear.

And where shall we find a good charmer of our fears, Socrates, when you are gone?

Hellas, he replied, is a large place, Cebes, and has many good men, and there are barbarous races not a few: seek for him among them all, far and wide, sparing neither pains nor money; for there is no better way of spending your money. And you must seek among yourselves too; for you will not find others better able to make the search.

-- Plato's Phaedo 77

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the interpretation of an archaically-phrased translation, which has little relevance to those wishing to learn English as currently spoken. Dec 27, 2013 at 16:59
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    ...I'd suggest migrating this to english.se - it's their scope.
    – SF.
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a poor translation of the original sentence, even though I don't know Greek and can't possibly translate it for myself.

Cebes is looking, on behalf of all of Socrates' students, for someone who can charm away their fears of death once Socrates is gone.

The text as given in your translation basically says (in very simplified form):

search for this charmer all over the world, but don't forget to search amongst yourselves for this charmer, because nobody else can search better than you.

That really doesn't make sense; it makes it sound like they are looking for someone who can search, not someone who can charm.

What I think it should say is:

search for this charmer all over the world, but don't forget to search amongst yourselves for this charmer, because you may not find anyone else in the world who is a better charmer than one of your own members.

(See, for example, the text available at perseus.tufts.edu for what I think is a better translation.)


I usually use two main tools: "identifying the verbs", and "bracketing the sentences" to make it easier to read. For example,

And (you must seek among yourselves too); for [you will not find (others better able to make the search)].

The phrase "others better able to make the search" means "others (who are) better able to make the search." The clause "... (who are) better able to make the search" is a reduced relative clause.

According to Practical English Usage by Michael Swan,

498.10 reduced relative clauses: the girl dancing
A participle is often used instead of a relative pronoun and full verb.
  Who's the girl dancing with your brother?
  (= ... that is dancing with your brother?)
  Anyone touching that wire will get a shock.
  (= ... who touches ?)
  Half of the people invited to the party didn't turn up.
  (= ... who were invited ?)
  I found him sitting at a table covered with papers.
  (= ... which was covered with papers.)
Reduced structures are also used with the adjectives available and possible.
Please send me all the tickets available. (= ... that are available.)
Tuesday's the only date possible.

  • I'm expecting someone to analyze the phrase "others better able to make the search" here. So your answer is not quite relevant. Dec 27, 2013 at 14:54

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