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The text says: "Some men seem to be obsequious in association with others and in interchange of words and deeds. They praise everything for the sake of pleasantness, and never contradict anyone, being of the opinion that unpleasantness ought to be avoided."

My question lies here in the commentary: "He says that in human conversation and generally in all human companionships some seem to be obsequious, as it were straining to please men. They praise everything that others say and do for the purpose of making themselves aggreeable."

Is the word "strain" here an intransitive verb? According to MW, then the meaning would be "3. to make a great difficulty or resistance" so as to stress the extent that it appears to be very difficult to please men therefore some seem to be obsequious.

Did I understand it correctly? Thanks.

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  • as if, not as it.
    – Lambie
    Jun 27 at 15:11
  • I double-checked my book, it is "..., as it were straining ..."
    – H.Li
    Jun 27 at 15:18
  • What book, what century? Sounds like Dickens or something.
    – Lambie
    Jun 27 at 15:38
  • Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Book 4 Chapter 6 I guess the subject confuses me.
    – H.Li
    Jun 27 at 15:41
  • So, it is a translation. I still think it should be if and not. It can be a typo. to strain means to make a great effort physically or mentally to do something.
    – Lambie
    Jun 27 at 15:44

2 Answers 2

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I think it's definition 1.1 at Lexico:

Verb [no object] Make an unusually great effort.

‘his voice was so quiet that I had to strain to hear it’

So it says, "...some seem to be obsequious, as it were making an enormous effort to please men."

It could be written:

'...as if they were making an enormous effort to please men."

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  • Hi, thank you for the response. It makes sense to me. Though I am still confused about the subject regarding the definition. So the subject could either be someone or it, right?
    – H.Li
    Jun 27 at 15:16
  • 1
    The subject is "someone"; "as it were" is a standard phrase meaning something similar to "approximately" or "sort of".
    – Stuart F
    Jun 27 at 16:03
  • The subject is "some". It's a pronoun. It can mean "some people". It's like, "Will he be re-elected? Some say he will, some say he won't." "Do they like Marmite? Some do." Second definition of the pronoun at Lexico. Jun 27 at 16:03
  • @StuartF I feel it finally makes sense to me. as it were: as if it were so: in a manner of speaking; So the subject of straining is some[someone]. Problem solved. Thanks a lot!
    – H.Li
    Jun 27 at 16:26
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"He says that in human conversation and generally in all human companionships some seem to be obsequious, as if it were straining to please men. They praise everything that others say and do for the purpose of making themselves agreeable."

Translations are very tricky especially of Ancient Greek.

To do something as if doing something else.

I was playing my music as if playing for money.

If you strain to please someone it means to make a great effort to do so.

There is actually some sort of translation error here because a conversation can be strained (difficult to have) but a conversation cannot "strain".

Also, it is possible that the pronoun it refers to something from a previous paragraph.

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    The use of straining in the text seems to be a little bit weird. Thanks for your help. I will take note of your explanation.
    – H.Li
    Jun 27 at 16:19

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