So the question was to arrange words to make a sentence and what I wrote was,

Those wanting to be famous are likely who have been made to feel extremely insignificant.

and the only problem with this (as I think) is that I didn't use the words as themselves (I changed "are likely to" to "are likely"). Which my teacher didn't see this as that big of a problem.

Like I said my English teacher said this can never be right and explained (I live in Korea and I have no idea what she said) but I am not convinced.

I am pretty confident that what I wrote has no grammar errors but I may be wrong. So can you please tell me if what I wrote is right or wrong? The reasons for it will be very helpful.

Just for comparison, the right answer was

Those who have been made to feel extremely insignificant are likely to want to be famous.

I feel like this sentence doesn't sound right as well but I don't know why (if you can tell me why that would be helpful too).


1 Answer 1


There is a basic structural problem with the sentence you've constructed. The predicate "are likely" is said of events or states, but the subject of your example,

Those wanting to be famous are likely who have been made to feel extremely insignificant.

refers to people, not events. The subject is "those wanting to be famous who have been made to feel extremely insignificant" (where the part starting with "who" has been extraposed to the end of the main clause). This can only refer to people.

You will find other examples where the subject of "are likely" appears to refer to people, like

Men are likely to be strong.

but such examples are derived by a process called subject raising, where the subject of a constituent clause, "men" in "for men to be strong" is moved up to become the derived subject of "are likely", but the predicate of the clause becomes part of the main sentence predicate. So for this example, the predicate becomes "are likely to be strong".

We can't interpret your example as being due to subject-raising, because there is nothing following "are likely" in your example which could be the predicate of the true subject. "Are likely to what?" we'd ask.

I'm sorry the explanation is so involved, but the conclusion is that your teacher is right. There is no way to make sense of your example, because we can't find a state or event which is said to be "likely".

  • Thank you so much for the insight! But it is rather disappointing that now there is no hope for my grades...
    – Jin Hyoung Joo
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 14:15
  • Sorry. Show your teacher my answer, and maybe she will have some sympathy for the tangle you got yourself into.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 14:18
  • 3
    I had to read the first part of this answer three times before I could make sense of it, because I read the sentence in a completely different way. The crux here is that likely is both an adjective and an adverb: Greg reads it as an adjective (those who X are likely), while I read it as an adverb – in which case the sentence is grammatical, but very old-fashioned, bordering on obsolete. Plural who used to be able to function as subject in fused relative constructions, but cannot really anymore, so to be grammatical in current English, you’d have to break it up into those who: Commented May 4, 2019 at 16:06
  • 2
    “Those wanting to be famous are likely those who have been made to feel extremely insignificant”. This is a bit clumsy, but perfectly grammatical (and it makes sense). If your teacher will let you insert an extra those, you can save it – otherwise you’ll have to argue that you’re trying to imitate Shakespeare. Commented May 4, 2019 at 16:08
  • The "right answer" as quoted by the OP reverses the logic. As corrected by @GregLee, the sentence says that people who want to be famous are likely to have been made to feel small, whereas the "right' answer says something about those who have been made to feel small. Lots of people are made to feel small. I suggest that it is not true that lots of people want to be famous. All A are B is not the same thing as All B are A.
    – JeremyC
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 21:57

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