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To mean

"Was I right to tell him the truth?"

Can we say:

"Was/Is it right that I told him truth?"

Context: I want to ask if what I did is morally right. I know that we can say the "Was I right to..." sentence to mean that, but I wonder if can say the "Was/Is it right that..." sentence to give the same meaning.

I know we can say that kind of sentence using "should" like in "It is right that we should tell him the truth." I wonder if that structure is okay to use unless we are using "should" too. Because it sounds kind of off to me.

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+25

"Was / Is it right.." is correct, although the exact meaning is slightly different.

In the first form, the question is about you, if you were right or not.

In the second form, the question is about the action of telling ("it"), if the action ("it") was OK or not.

In the end, the overall meaning is the same, but the details are slightly different.


The sentence "It is right that we should tell him the truth." actually has a very different meaning. In the first two sentences, the "telling" was already done, and now you wonder if it was good or not. In the "should" sentence, you did not yet tell anything, and you wonder whether is it OK or not to tell the truth in the future.

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  • Thanks. What do you think about Casey's opinion? Dec 4 '21 at 8:41
  • I just added a comment there, please have a look.
    – virolino
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:31
0

I would say that the "is it right?" version sounds more like you're asking if it is, indeed, the case, that you told him the truth. You could see this same construction in something like "is it right that the biomass of ants on Earth exceeds that of humans?”

I think the combination of “is it right” in the present tense and “I told” in the past tense makes this interpretation especially likely. If you switch to “was it right” I consider it much less likely.

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  • in both your examples, you should use "true" instead of "right", in order to have the meaning that you explain.
    – virolino
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:31
  • @virolino If you want to express it unambiguously, sure, might be a better choice. But “right” in the sense of “correct” is not mistaken or rarely used among native English speakers like myself and I stand by what I said about that interpretation being more likely with a sentence that begins “is it right that.”
    – Casey
    Dec 8 '21 at 6:49
  • @virolino Your own profile would suggest you are not a native speaker of English and are at a more or less intermediate level, which I think the OP should take in mind when weighing whether to believe your proposed correction has merit.
    – Casey
    Dec 8 '21 at 6:54
  • I wrote several times already (in other questions or answers) that I am not a native speaker. Also, "more or less intermediate" has no meaning: it is not clearly defined, and is not measurable. I use English (reading, writing, talking, listening) for more than 20 years, on an almost-daily basis. I use(d) it with people from many countries (including USA and UK), so I am not locked in using English from the perspective of my own mother tongue. And yes, anyone is free to take their decisions based on any information available.
    – virolino
    Dec 8 '21 at 12:03
  • @virolino nevertheless your suggestion that the sentence cannot have the meaning I suggest unless you say true instead of right is flat out wrong.
    – Casey
    Dec 8 '21 at 15:53

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