This is a context from an English translation of "Crime And Punishment" by Dostoevsky

"I have considerable reason to believe that Marfa Petrovna, who was so unfortunate as to fall in love with him and to pay his debts eight years ago, was of service to him also in another way."

Research: so as in British English (takes an infinitive) in order (to) to slim so as to lose weight

The sentence in bold would make sense to me if it went "so unfortunate to fall in love.." Is this just a dated way of saying the same thing?

1 Answer 1


You are right, this is a dated idiom.

Here are some more examples

Should you be so unfortunate as to suppose you are a genius, and that 'things will come to you,' it would be well to undeceive yourself as soon as possible. - Orison Swett Marden

I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. - Booker T. Washington.

It means "you are so unfortunate that {something happens}". You could paraphrase as

I have considerable reason to believe that Marfa Petrovna, who had the misfortune to fall in love with him ...

There is some irony in the use in that "falling in love" is not generally considered a misfortune.

  • 4
    Note that in this construction, which I agree is somewhat dated, the unfortunate nature of the person is presented as the cause for the marriage, not the other way around. It's hidden in this particular usage - that is, this specific, more familiar idiom (i.e. with the word "unfortunate") almost reverses the causation - but consider: "He was so tall as to be able to dunk a basketball."
    – cruthers
    Dec 5, 2021 at 20:47
  • 5
    Dated, maybe, or just a little formal? "If you are ever so unlucky as to get close to a real knife fight, it would be useful to keep one fact in mind above all others: the real knife fighter does not wish to engage in a fight. He doesn’t care who is best with a knife. He only wants to cut you. He will then do anything he can to take you by surprise, attack, and finish you off before you can fight back." - Hank Reinhardt's Book of Knives: : A Practical and Illustrated Guide to Knife Fighting = (Baen, 2012) Dec 5, 2021 at 22:03
  • 4
    I don't think the construction is "dated", just somewhat less common than it used to be. "So far as to" is still quite common, like "PCMag gaming analyst Jordan Minor goes so far as to declare that With Windows 11, Microsoft Makes Every PC an Xbox." and here's "so good as to" in "While never-instant replay has made NFL officials fish-in-a-barrel targets, I often find their work to be so good as to surpass the human condition."
    – stangdon
    Dec 6, 2021 at 12:46
  • What @stangdon said. And more - I certainly don't think the general construction is "dated", but I see no reason to suppose it's any less common than it ever was. And it's not obvious to me why common-as-muck You should be so lucky! (as a curt colloquial brush-off to someone asking you for a date, or some other "favour") shouldn't be classed as another example of the general construction. Dec 6, 2021 at 14:02
  • 2
    I won't go so far as to deny that this usage is relatively formal. But I'm not so daft as to think this one is formal too!. Dec 6, 2021 at 14:06

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