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I was told that "it is no use" is followed by a gerund, not an infinitive in current English. What about the "it is of no use"? Does it pattern in the same way?

Consider the following:

  1. It is no use asking John for help.
  2. It is no use to ask John for help.
  3. It is of no use asking John for help.
  4. It is of no use to ask John for help.

In this connection, note the following 19th-century English:

"To think that because those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. "

(John Stuart Mill, Considerations On Representative Government)

Would this be considered awkward in current English?

  • In common usage, I don't believe anybody would have a problem with any of those sentences. Strictly speaking, 2. and 4. need to read for you to ask in order to be grammatical. But whether you think the infinitive is acceptable or not, "no use" and "of no use" follow the same pattern. (I can't give a detailed enough answer to turn this into an actual answer, so I'm leaving it as a comment.) – Jason Bassford Jul 15 '18 at 4:30
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To think that because those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.

Yes, in some respects that would be considered awkward in contemporary English, at least by some writers, but not because of it is of no use. What feels ponderous and also a little unclear to me is the structure:

To think that because {X} therefore {Y}.

What is unclear there is whether Mill is accepting as fact that "those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government", or if that is something which is merely a mistaken belief. The logic of the passage indicates the latter. So I would rephrase it with two that-clauses both of which complement think.

To think that those who wield power in society wield in the end the power of government and that therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.

Isn't it pretty to think so.

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