In an academic manuscript, I am explaining that sometimes the fact that something is false can be good. And then I write:

An example of it being good is if Socrates had drunk false poison.

But I am not sure wether there is something off with this construction... How would you put it? Please help me! Thanks a lot!

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    We try not to answer questions that simply ask to find and correct errors. You have to add more detail. Tell us what you think might be wrong, and why, and what research or sources you may have checked. – Andrew Jul 19 '19 at 16:34

Grammatically it is ok.

You are misusing the word "false". You should use the word "fake".

The other problem is the overall phrasing, starting with "An example of this is..." since that wants to be followed by a noun phrase. But you want to use a conditional phrase.

So a complete rephrasing is in order.

It would have been better if Socrates had drunk a fake poison.

  • Thanks a lot, James. I am relieved to know that it is ok grammatically. If it is, I might leave it as it is. But please tell me why do you think that the word "false" is being misused in my phrasing. I need to use "false" because I am explaining the prefix "pseudo-", which is usually translated as "false". "Fake" sounds too informal and colloquial. – user354948 Jul 19 '19 at 15:50
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    I'm probably being too picky, but a statement can be "false" but a poison would be "fake". – James K Jul 19 '19 at 15:59
  • @user354948: Just because "fake" has been co-opted into common parlance in various "casual" usages (Fake news, You're so fake!) doesn't mean it's no longer suitable for the specific context here. The fact that it's "grammatical" to speak of false poison doesn't mean it's idiomatically "valid" to do so (it's not). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '19 at 16:00
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    The phrase "false rumour" could be used if it is simply incorrect. A "fake rumour" would be deliberately contrived. The word "fake" also implies an imitation or fraud. A "false ceiling" is an architectural contrivance. A "false summit" is not a fake, it is a misconception. – Weather Vane Jul 19 '19 at 16:16
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    The two words are not completely synonymous, with fake being more perjorative. I think you could find another example that does use the word "false" reasonably. For example "I didn't fly that day because of a false rumour about a strike, and so my heart attack happened in a place where I could be treated quickly." – Weather Vane Jul 19 '19 at 16:30

After discussion with users James K, FumbleFingers, and WeatherVane, I found that: i) My phrasing is grammatically correct; ii) According to Merriam-Webster's and OED, there is no category mistake (it is not necessary to use "fake" for concrete stuff); but nonetheless iii) I could use an example in which the word "false" were used more naturally.

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