Some categorically suspected having seen the guard and thief together.

At first I thought there is no error. But then I thought maybe we can change it to 'Some categorically suspected to have seen the guard and thief together.' (perhaps there is a determiner error as well. the guard and the thief. I am not sure.)

In other words, the given sentence is saying that 'some suspected that they had seen the guard and the thief together.' So how can we write this sentence without that? Is the usage of 'having seen' wrong in the original sentence?

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    Google-search led me to a page thats lists this sentence among problems for solution and has the answer: leadthecompetition.in/english/qpapers/SSC-GL/… – CowperKettle Feb 23 '14 at 11:46
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    sorry, checking the entire sentence on google search didn't strike me. – Ramit Feb 23 '14 at 16:04
  • No problem, @Ramit! Didn't occur to me is the common way of saying the same; or, didn't strike me as an option. – CowperKettle Feb 23 '14 at 16:39

Here are my initial thoughts, before visiting the link in the comment by CopperKettle:

It needs more context. Some suspected what? A conspiracy? An impending crime?

Some became suspicious after seeing the guard and the thief together.

That's how I'd write the sentence, but you never really tell us what you are trying to say, so my suggestion may not be suitable.

Based on your rewrite, perhaps you're trying to say:

Some vaguely remembered seeing the guard and thief together.

Here are my thoughts, after visiting the link in the comment by CopperKettle:

categorically suspected - what an odd choice of words! It almost sounds like an oxymoron. When you suspect something, you believe it to be true, but you're not entirely certain:

suspect (v.) have an idea or impression of the existence, presence, or truth of (something) without certain proof (NOAD)

Hoever, when you declare something categorically, it means without any reservation or doubt:

categorically (adv.) in an unqualified way; positively; unconditionally (Collins)

So, to categorically suspect something means to believe something unconditionally, despite any lack of proof.

The sentence is grammatical enough alright, but it's an odd one, and serves as a great example of why we shouldn't worry too much about sentences we see in practice tests. Many of them are, quite frankly, rather poorly written, and the situation is made worse because the sentences are provided without any surrounding context.

Moreover, I'd debate the validity of this practice exam's answer key. It claims that this sentence is wrong:

Some became suspicious after seeing the guard and thief together.

and the correct version should be:

Some became suspicious after seeing the guard and the thief together.


using two separate articles indicates the guard and the thief are two different persons

What nonsense! Including an extra article may be a good idea, but I don't think its omission would be considered an "error."

Police became suspicious after they found a gun and knife under the man's seat.

He said he was very hungry, so I gave him a fork and spoon.

Does anyone need an extra article to figure out that the gun and the knife are two different weapons, or that the fork and spoon are two different utensils?

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    I agree with all the points made here, but I would just mention that your final rephrasing does lose the connotations of categorically in the original. Granted, that particular word doesn't work in this context, but it would be quite okay to say, for example, "Some became decidedly suspicious after seeing..." Or (less sensible in "semantic" terms, but taking account of OP's edit) "Some thought they had definitely seen..." – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 23 '14 at 14:06
  • @Fumble - Your suggested rephrasings are excellent! – J.R. Feb 23 '14 at 20:48
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    I've just followed CopperKettle's link to the source myself. What a shambolic way to teach English! #1 clumsily juxtaposes adjectival being helpful with noun-based being a hindrance. #2 is frankly gibberish. #3 misleadingly assumes past perfect must be used for both actions. #4 contains all the flaws you've identified. #5 is pedantry of the first order. Ye Gods and little fishes! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 23 '14 at 21:24
  • @FumbleFingers- answer to #3 is fine I guess. The correct version says past perfect shouldn't be used for both the actions. – Ramit Feb 24 '14 at 4:03
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    Consider: I was scared, having seen a ghost vs I was scared to have seen a ghost. Both are grammatical, and both mean, essentially: I saw a ghost, and got scared. Yet I don't like the second one; this would be better: I was scared when I saw a ghost. Still, you can't always put the word "to" in there; it depends on the verb. For example: I jumped, having seen a ghost is fine, but I jumped to have seen a ghost sounds ungrammatical to me (a much better version would be I jumped when I saw the ghost). Also, note the commas before having; they are important in this construct. – J.R. Feb 24 '14 at 10:43

I don't think there's anything wrong with that sentence.

It's quite a complicated sentence, but the original flows more naturally, in my opinion, than your suggestion. However, your suggestion is grammatically fine also.

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