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The 30-year-old Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu Yifan was detained by Beijing police for suspected rape.

I don't know why the person (a graduate student in translation studies) claims "was detained by Beijing police for suspected rape" is unnatural. Is it natural English?

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  • The alternatives provided are "was under detention for suspicion of rape" and "was detained for the suspected crime of rape".
    – user141319
    Aug 1 '21 at 6:11
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    The alternatives provided by whom? Who says it's unnatural, and why? What do you think?
    – TypeIA
    Aug 1 '21 at 6:28
  • @TypeIA I don't know the source or their reason for it. The sentence sounds fine to me, but I want to get a native speaker's take on this.
    – user141319
    Aug 1 '21 at 6:45
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    You need to include the alternatives in the question to show why someone (who?) believes their version sounds more natural.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 1 '21 at 7:05
  • It's fine for a given definition of fine. It's most definitely 'newspaperese' Aug 1 '21 at 18:39
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“[for] suspected rape” literally means that it’s not certain a rape occurred, while “[on] suspicion of rape” would mean that a rape definitely did occur.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the media accidentally used the former when they meant the latter. Popular media aren’t known for their accuracy with fine details.

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I'm native English (UK) and the way you've worded it doesn't strike me at all as unnatural. It's hard to define 'unnatural' really because it's rather subjective, but I really don't see any serious issues with your phrasing.

The first part ("was detained by") is perfectly correct, nothing really to say about that. The second part ("for suspected rape") is maybe a tiny bit awkward but not so much that it strikes me as "this was clearly not written by a native speaker". Grammatically it's not incorrect. To satisfy your reviewer and maybe improve your sentence a little, I would use "on suspicion of rape", which sounds more natural because it's an idiomatic expression that is very commonly used in this kind of context, however "for suspected rape" would be OK here as well as far as I'm concerned.

(To me) it kind of feels like your reviewer was trying to fix a non-issue, it's not like the sentence can't be improved a little but nothing about it is really problematic (given the context: it's a newspaper article, not an English language assignment). Without wanting to be a bad influence, certain reviewers do have that flaw.

I should also point out that "for suspicion of rape" actually sounds a lot more wrong to me, maybe it's something people do say sometimes (could be a UK-US thing), but I'm pretty convinced the correct expression is "on suspicion of rape". I feel like writing "for suspicion of rape" would actually make matters worse in terms of sounding 'unnatural', but that's just my gut feeling. The other alternative "for the suspected crime of rape" is grammatically and idiomatically sound but way too wordy and formal, a valid solution but not really the most elegant one I would say.

Hope that was helpful, have a nice day! :)

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The sentence you quoted is grammatically correct, but it is not something that I would say. As this NGram graph shows, on suspicion of rape and suspected of rape are a lot more widely used. The complete sentence would be:

The 30-year-old Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu Yifan was detained by Beijing police on suspicion of rape.
The 30-year-old Chinese-Canadian pop idol Kris Wu Yifan was detained by Beijing police, suspected of rape.

for suspicion of rape sounds wrong to me, and occurs about as frequently as the original sentence.

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  • While I agree with your answer completely, the Ngram link is unsound because it doesn't take the context (specifically, the preceding verb) into account. Different prepositional forms are often used with different verbs. This can make the wrong form for a particular case appear more common.
    – TypeIA
    Aug 1 '21 at 8:39
  • @TypeIA I checked actual instances, and I think that the usage figures are representative, though wording varies somewhat. If you add "detained" before each phrase, there are no hits: I suspect that intervening prepositional phrases, as in this sentence, prevent a match. With "arrested" before each phrase, the only one that scores any hits is "arrested on suspicion of rape"
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 1 '21 at 8:51
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    Fair enough, and in this instance we see the correct result, but I've seen a lot of posts here that use unsound Ngrams to justify a wrong answer, so wanted to comment. I myself have been caught using (unintentionally) misleading Ngrams in answers. It's a great tool but tricky to use correctly, as I'm sure you know!
    – TypeIA
    Aug 1 '21 at 10:01
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    You have to take into account: detained. If you do, you can't use "suspected of rape". You are detained by someone for [some reason]. Removing that context makes the NGRAM pretty meaningless.
    – Lambie
    Aug 1 '21 at 19:19
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It sounds natural in British English (native speaker).

"... was under detention for suspicion of rape" is also fine, and perhaps a bit more formal.

"... was detained for the suspected crime of rape" is unnecessarily pedantic. Everyone knows that rape is a crime, so there is no need to add that fact to the sentence.

Compare this page from the BBC News website: the headline says "Man arrested over suspected rape ..." and the text begins "A 53-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of raping a woman..."

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  1. to be arrested or detained for a crime. [rape, murder, robbery, etc.]

  2. to be arrested or detained for a suspected crime.

  3. to be arrested or detained on suspicion of a crime.

English likes verbs, so 2) is a better choice.

a suspected crime is the same as suspicion of a crime.

With the noun, the preposition in front of suspicion is on.

With the verb, the preposition is for as it explains the purpose.

The explanation for these usages cannot be found using NGRAM or some other online tool.

It can only be explained by a real person who is a quasi-native or native speaker and who knows how to write well. Maybe some grammar book or other explains this kind of thing.

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There is nothing unnatural in this sentence. It's very natural English.

"For suspected rape" means literally that the only doubt is about whether it was actually a rape. If it had been clearly established that a rape happened, and the only doubt was about who did it, then a better literal phrasing might by "as a suspect in a rape case."

In reality, we are not so literal about our language as to assume that these are the only possibilities and that this phrase can only mean this one thing. Everyone understands that the newspaper is just trying to do its duty to preserve the presumption of innocence.

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