The context is in the late 1800s and early 1900s when there was no organized labor, i.e., brotherhood of workers, or trade unions. Aside from history, if you were an industrialist and your empire was family-owned, it would be popular to actually employ thugs (cons, mobsters, boxers, gangsters, ex-cops kicked of force) to literally fight off organized labor.

Now, let's suppose that in your writing you have already overused words like required, compulsory, needed, prevent, stop, violence, avoid, reject, abstain, etc. Would it be appropriate to write:

...and sometimes it was obligatory to employ pugilists to eschew the trade unions.

Or would it be better to state:

...and sometimes it was obligatory for employing pugilists to eschew the trade unions.

I don't want to use "violence" for "pugilists" because I want to express the notion of physical fighting via fisticuffs by roughnecks, and in this context "pugilists" are fighters, or boxers, which can essentially serve as thugs for the employer. To me, the word "thugs" is a perfect replacement for "pugilists", but a colleague does not like to use "thugs" in formal writing.

Eschew means to avoid, reject, or abstain from.

Last, would you drop the "the" before "trade unions?"

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    Eschew doesn't mean "fight off" it means "abstain from". "For employing" is just wrong. It's a kind of common 'foreignese', perhaps even 'Indianese'. It's not English. "To [use] for [effect]" is the correct form. [Not making this into an answer because I don't know the technical names for all this]. …and 'obligatory' feels wrong too. They weren't compelled by law or edict, they made an economic choice of their own volition. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 17:55
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    … also… "popular to employ thugs" - it may have been common, but I bet it wasn't popular;)) [popular - liked or admired by many] Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:21
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    I agree with Tetsujin; obligatory is not a good word to use here, because it means something like "required by an authority", which is not what you mean here. Also, pugilist is a poor choice of word here, because it means "a boxer", someone who engages in the sport of boxing, not just "someone who uses physical violence".
    – stangdon
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:38
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    "The late 1800s and early 1900s' seems a bit imprecise, especially since trade unions were made legal in the UK in 1824. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:44
  • You may also want to check whether “pugilist” is a good choice. There’s a difference between “someone who boxes as a sport or for a show” and “someone who beats up others to punish or deter them or to do the dirty work of others”.
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


[ "obligatory" (+ "for" + noun phrase) (+ "to" + infinitive) ]

The word "obligatory" takes an optional to-infinitive phrase that indicates what action or state is obligatory. Without this to-infinitive phrase, it is understood from the context what the obligatory thing is, or it can be the subject of the sentence.

"Obligatory" optionally takes a "for" + noun phrase which is used to specify the subject of the to-infinitive, even if it's understood in the context. Without this "for" phrase, it is understood from the context who is obliged to do the to-infinitive verb.

All these sentences mean the same thing:

It is obligatory for drivers to have a license.
It is obligatory to have a license. ("for drivers" is understood)
It is obligatory for drivers. ("to have a license" is understood)
It is obligatory. (both are understood)

So your two sentences are quite different because both the subject and the verb change.

In the first sentence, the first to-infinitive is "to employ pugilists", so this is the required action. There is no specified subject, so we don't know who had to employ them. So it means roughly, "Someone had to employ pugilists in order to eschew the trade unions."

In the second sentence, the first to-infinitive is "to eschew the trade unions". There is a specified subject of this to-infinitive: "for employing pugilists". So this sentence means, "Employing pugilists had to eschew trade unions." This is odd because "employing pugilists" means "pugilists who employ someone", as if the pugilists are the employers, rather than the employees.

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