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Is this sentence correct?

This song would be difficult to be or reach number 1

I think it should be phrased like

It would be difficult for this song to be or reach number 1

While trying to say that "this song is not likely to reach number 1". My friend who studied for 2 years in the U.S. told me that even if first one is not used often, it is grammatically correct but when I asked him why, he wasn't able to give a proper answer.

So I would like to ask if the first one is correct or not, and could you please explain the reason or grammatical rule behind this?

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In this usage the phrase "to be or reach" feels awkward to me. I don't think it is technically incorrect -- such a construction using two verbs with the same object is not uncommon. It is, I suppose, a redundancy, because a song can't very well reach number 1 without also being number 1. Thus the second verb does not add any meaning.

Even without the double verb, the first form feels odd.

This song would be difficult to be number 1.

On thinking about it, I realize that in this construction "this song" is the subject of the verb "to be difficult", but it ought to be an indirect object. That is, the song isn't the thing being difficult, it is reaching number 1 that is difficult for the song.

Therefore the form

It would be difficult for this song to reach number 1.

seems to me the best version. It avoids the redundancy, and it gets the subject vs object right.

The song would be the subject in a sentence such as:

This song would be difficult for a baritone to sing..

Here the song is the thing being difficult. I hope that helps make the difference clear.

However, the first version, even if it sounds off, would probably be understood correctly. But it would, I think, feel odd to most native speakers. And I now think it is technically incorrect.

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  • Thank you very much @DavidSiegel. So the first one that is "This song would be difficult to be number 1." incorrect, right?
    – Guri
    Dec 3 '20 at 13:23
  • @Guri I think so, yes. It would probably be understood, however. Dec 3 '20 at 15:31
  • Thank you very much, it was very helpful.
    – Guri
    Dec 4 '20 at 4:42

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