I am in doubt with regards to the sentence below

China is reckoned to not be prevented by the U.S. from attacking Taiwan

How weird do native English speakers find this sentence? Are they able to understand it?

I understand the split infinitive might sound a bit odd, nevertheless I think it is right.

  • I searched online and did not find the quotation. Could you please edit your question and cite your source.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 7, 2023 at 5:48
  • Did you create this sentence yourself? Is it your own translation? Perhaps you copied it wrongly?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 7, 2023 at 5:51
  • I don't find it 'weird', just rather clumsy. Reckoned not to be is much more idiomatic. Sep 7, 2023 at 8:00
  • @Mari-LouA I don't remember having said I had a source. This is a made up sentence
    – Quique
    Sep 7, 2023 at 23:48
  • Where does it say that you created this sentence? Where does it say "my"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 8, 2023 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


Though the sentence is technically correct it is verbose, clumsy, and can be simplified.

I would've written it as:

It is reckoned that the U.S. would not prevent China from attacking Taiwan.

  • Or not be able to prevent... Sep 7, 2023 at 9:49
  • 1
    @TimR your solution has a different meaning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 7, 2023 at 10:32
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, I know. But I'm suggesting the meaning of the original is not clear in that regard. Sep 7, 2023 at 10:41

It is not clear how to restate that passive construction to be prevented in active voice in a grammatical manner and with a clear predicate.

The US is reckoned to not prevent China from attacking Taiwan.ungrammatical

Is that supposed to mean "to not be able to prevent" or "to not be preventing"?

This is ungrammatical with or without not:

The US is reckoned to not prevent China from attacking Taiwan.

The US is reckoned to prevent China from attacking Taiwan.

reckoned to prevent China from attacking Taiwan makes no sense. Here's why.

Garlic is believed to prevent vampires from biting.

Garlic is believed to not prevent vampires from biting.

It may appear that the sentences about the US and the sentences about garlic (where they are the grammatical subject of is) have the same structure, but on a semantic level there are two very different aspects at play. With the vampire example, we're talking about an innate quality of garlic that always has (or always does not have) efficacy in preventing vampires from biting; garlic is believed to prevent or believed not to prevent and the infinitive is appropropriate; but with the US example we're not talking about anything that always is true or false, but about something that is true or false at some juncture in time, and so "reckoned" with infinitive complement, whether active or passive, to (not) prevent or to (not) be prevented, is inapplicable there aspectually.

The passive formulation calls for one of the following tensed possibilities:

It is reckoned that China is not being prevented ...

It is reckoned that China won't be prevented ... [or wouldn't]

It is reckoned that China can't be prevented ... [or couldn't]

or if there's some doubt in the reckoning:

... that China may not be prevented ...

... that China might not be prevented ...

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