First, could you have a look at the quote below, focusing on the highlighted portion?

I am forced to think in a very different kind of way because I am collaborating, and I think that is always a healthy thing to have collaborators. — Transcript from an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Laureate in Literature 2017

There's also a YouTube video of the interview itself

Here's my question: What does the highlighted portion mean? From an English learner's view, there may be two ways of interpreting it:

  1. I think that that (ie, to think in a different kind of way) is a healthy thing in order to have collaborators.

  2. I think that it's a healthy thing to have collaborators. (Meaning: I suppose that to have collaborators is a healthy thing. And the word "is" in the original should be a typo for "it's.")

I have a gut feeling that option 2 is correct. I believe that option 1 is incorrect because the construction "something is a healthy thing to do something else" (intended to mean "something is a healthy thing in order to do something else") is impossible.

Am I correct? Or can there be a third option? Thank you very much for your attention. Your dedicated attention and beautiful enlightenment always fascinate me.


3 Answers 3


Don't over think it. It means just having collaborators to work with is healthy and productive.

The grammar cops would probably prefer something like

And, I think having collaborators is healthy.

This is not formally written at all. Maybe from a blog, reddit post or SE The Workplace. Perfectly fine for conversational English.

  • I agree. My own answer explains more of the details; this is nicely concise.
    – Jesse
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 12:52

You could interpret this as a kind of cleft sentence. Normally you could have

It is a healthy thing to have collaborators.

Hence you could say

I think it is a healthy thing to have collaborators.

And you could say "I think that it is a healthy thing..."

So all that has happened here is that the two construction have merged. The resulting mess is not correct, but hardly noticeable (it doesn't affect understanding)

I can't fit your first meaning to this sentence. I'm sure that meaning is not intended, and this is a simple typo. While infintives can give a purpose (often this can be express with "in order to") it would not be possible to read the sentence as

I think "being forced to think in a different way" is a good thing, in order to have collaborators.

I just don't see the connection. I just doesn't work, when there is a much more natural interpretion.

Whereas it probably would be possible to say

Cooking is a good thing, in order to please your spouse.

But it's not a very natural way to express this idea.

  • I understand. Thank you for your careful follow-up. Now, in connection with the sub-question I was asking just now, is it possible for a native speaker to write something like this? -- Cooking is a good thing to please your spouse. --- I was thinking that this sentence in this construction doesn't make sense. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:51
  • Thank you for your further follow-up about "Cooking is a good thing, in order to please your spouse." That's exactly what I wanted a native speaker to confirm. I'm relieved to have got your input. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:55
  • 1
    If this has solved your problem, you can accept it by clicking the green tick.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 15:49
  • 1
    I don't think Cooking is a good thing, in order to please your spouse is remotely idiomatic. What we would say is, for example, Cooking is a good way to please your spouse. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 18:19

Collaborating is healthy; no typo

It's somewhat advanced grammar, strange to some, but very correct. A comma for the last clause would be best, though.


This is a good example of the affectionate use of the demonstrative that. While the antecedent is explained before, that is further clarified in the later clause "to have collaborators".

From Explaining variance in writers' use of demonstratives: A corpus study demonstrating the importance of discourse genre:

The idea of proximal demonstratives expressing the (positive) involvement of the writer vs. distal demonstratives expressing the (negative) backside can be found in many proposals...

...or to be associated with affection, interest, and pride, as opposed to contempt, disapproval, dislike, and mental remoteness.

While that article calls them proximal (positive) and distal (negative), my study with Greek refers to the positive as affectionate and the negative as contemptuous.

Example of affectionate use of a demonstrative:

Oh, I love that guy!

Example of contemptuous use of a demonstrative:

Oh, I hate that teacher!

By using the word that, the contempt or affection is emphasized.

That is what I know and use in my own work with writing and my college major, which was ancient Greek being translated into English. I often explain this to many of my ESL students, which I have experience in for 13 years.

As for the phrase in the question, we could rephrase it as such, using punctuation for clarity:

I think that is a healthy thing (to have collaborators).

Equally, we can say:

I think that is a healthy thing.

More importantly, using demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, those) can indicate affection or contempt, among other things, all depending on the context. In this situation, the writer is talking well (affectionately) of collaboration, so we would not be wrong to say this is an "affectionate use of the demonstrative".


But, the use of the demonstrative is more than merely for affection. It also refers to much of the previous explanation, being that it is an anaphoric demonstrative (commonly the far demonstrative: that, those), as opposed to cataphoric, referring to something explained later on (more commonly the near demonstrative: this, these).


I think [all that I just explained] is a healthy thing (to have collaborators).

If we wanted to improve this, we could argue that it is missing a comma to separate that last parenthetical phrase, meaning we could arrive at this:

I think that is a healthy thing, to have collaborators.

Tip for learners

While learning English as a second language, be cautious of the notion that all sentences must fit into common patterns such as "I think it is". That phrase is common, but not always necessary. "I think that is" also can be proper grammar.

In the phrase used, we have proper use of subjects, verbs, and objects. The writer uses "that" as part of either clear writing or good conversation, linking the ideas in the last sentence to other ideas already explained.

  • 2
    There's no such thing as an "affectionate" demonstrative, and your link attached to that word-pair is nothing to do with the syntactic category (this, that, these, those) anyway. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 13:16
  • 1
    Anaphor is just a fancy word for describing that a referent occurs previously in the sentence or paragraph. It is present here, but that has nothing to do with the grammar mistake in the original example. There's no need to confuse learners with the term.
    – BadZen
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 15:07
  • 1
    @TheOEDLovesMeNot I added a citation with examples. Sorry to make such a bold statement, but FF is factually in error. This is what my college major was in and I studied two years under a renowned scholar as my professor. Moreover, ESL is a significant part of my work. You can trust my explanation of what's going on here.
    – Jesse
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 17:10
  • 1
    @BadZen I won't claim whether it is a mistake or not because we'd need to ask the writer to know for sure. But, if it was a mistake, then it was a mistake with perfect spelling, advanced grammar, and rich meaning.
    – Jesse
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 17:12
  • 4
    No. I think the entire concept of "affectionate" is irrelevant to demonstrative pronouns. Perhaps this is some kind of terminological issue. The collocation "affectionate demonstratives" (plural) doesn't occur even once in Google Books, and I'm quite sure all the matches for singular "affectionate demonstrative" will be about people who have an "affectionate, demonstrative personality - nothing to do with grammar and syntax. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 17:40

You must log in to answer this question.

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