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But he did mature into a fine young man. At least he looked pretty good - all the girls thought he could play the part. He had a special tutor called Regin, whose job it was to see that he knew how to behave as a true Prince

What is the difference between two sentences:

  1. whose job was to see that he knew how to behave as a true Prince
  2. whose job it was to see that he knew how to behave as a true Prince
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    Please clarify what your difficulty is with the the sentence.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 16:18
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    You just have to accept that this is the way we say what a person's particular duty is. "It was Regin's job to tutor the Prince" (where it is a dummy subject), so we say "Regin, whose job it was..." Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 16:58

1 Answer 1

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OK. In English we can say

His job was to ...

and we can say

It was his job to ...

There's hardly any difference in meaning, but the first tends to suggest that this was all of his job: that's what he did, and it might almost define him (in the way we do define people by their jobs: she is a doctor, he is a teacher).

The second suggests that this is not all of his job, but just what his job is in the particular context we are talking about. It is less likely to define him.

As I said, the difference is subtle, and these suggestions can be contradicted by other things said.

So, in the given example, whose job it was corresponds to it was his job; whereas whose job was would correspond to His job was. The use of it was suggests that teaching him how to be a prince was not the whole of the tutor's job.

Second point

You asked in a comment "Why isn't it written this way? Whose job it was to teach that how to behave as a true prince."

First, that wouldn't be grammatical: you can't use that as a pronoun referring to a human. It could be to teach him how to behave as a true prince.

The phrase used is to see that he knew how to behave. This use of see (sense 5 here) means that "ensure". So "see that he knew" is very similar to "teach", but implies something less formal than teaching.

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  • Why isn't it written this way? Whose job it was to teach that how to behave as a true prince.
    – odur-o
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 19:00
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    Nice job! When I read the question, the difference in meaning seemed so subtle, there was little hope of explaining it clearly. But I think you pegged it.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 0:47

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