8

While studying English I came across the following exercise:

Complete the sentences. Choose the correct or more natural verb.

"Scientists ______ the loss of communication with the satellite to be the result of computing problems."

The two options are:

  • believe
  • explain

I thought that the answer would be explain, but in fact the correct answer is believe.

Can someone explain me why? Is it more natural?

6
  • Do the scientists know why the satellite lost communication? If they don't know the reason, they can't explain what that reason is. They believe (think) it was computing problems.
    – mcalex
    Aug 26, 2021 at 7:40
  • @mcalex: Not to get too metaphysical, but that raises very real questions about what constitutes knowledge versus belief. Any scientist worth their salt would surely say that they cannot really know anything: all they have are a set of beliefs in which they do not (yet) see any contradiction.
    – eggyal
    Aug 26, 2021 at 7:48
  • @eggyal philosophically/scientifically speaking (and without additional qualifications): agreed. In context (ELL): nope. If nothing is known, or it's impossible to know things (in any context), then the word 'knowledge' would literally be defined as: a false belief in a comprehensive, definitive understanding of a thing, or similar.
    – mcalex
    Aug 26, 2021 at 8:22
  • 5
    Syntactically, it's usually They believe it to be [something], and They explain it as being [something]. Aug 26, 2021 at 12:36
  • 1
    @mcalex: You are missing the point. Scientists are often in a position to explain things. The point is that the 'explain' is ungrammatical in this sentence.
    – TonyK
    Aug 26, 2021 at 18:18

1 Answer 1

23

"Believe __ to be" is an idiomatic construction. If the sentence were recast using "explain," then the construction "explain ___ as" would be the best choice: "Scientists explain the loss of communication with the satellite as the result of computing problems."

7
  • Ye, though that should really be ""Scientists explain the loss of communication with the satellite as (being) the result of computing problems."" Aug 25, 2021 at 21:09
  • 3
    Or "Scientists explain that the loss of communication with the satellite is the result of computing problems."
    – Stef
    Aug 26, 2021 at 13:22
  • 1
    @Stef I considered that, but mentioned "explain ... as" as being the closest in voice. Of course one could also say "They believe that it is." But all these are moot since the OP didn't have the option of altering the exercise sentence. Aug 26, 2021 at 13:35
  • 2
    I think they're not moot - the point of the exercise is that "believe" can be used without altering the sentence, whereas a proper grammar construction using "explain" needs different connecting words in the sentence.
    – Stef
    Aug 26, 2021 at 13:40
  • 3
    Sorry, I think we're misunderstanding each other. I think we've both made the point "If the answer were 'explain,' additional words would be needed." Aug 26, 2021 at 13:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .