4

Here are examples:

  1. Johann Gutenberg printed the famous Gutenberg Bible, the first book to be printed in movable type in Europe.
  2. Johann Gutenberg printed the famous Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed in movable type in Europe.
  3. Johann Gutenberg printed the famous Gutenberg Bible, the first book that was printed in movable type in Europe.
  • I would stick with "printed" since it was way in the past. The others might be OK if you are also talking about other surrounding events. – user3169 Dec 26 '14 at 18:31
  • What do you want that sentence to do? In what context will the sentence be used? – user6951 Dec 26 '14 at 18:58
  • My point is that which sentence works best. – Marek Dec 26 '14 at 19:15
9

As a native American English speaker, I hear all three sentences as almost indistinguishable. The differences are very subtle. The first one has a ceremonial feel. The phrasing “the first to be…” carries the connotation of being special and important. That's probably the best choice for this topic. The third sentence might be just a little awkward, since printed gets reduced emphasis by being in a relative clause, but printing is probably the main concept that you want to emphasize in this sentence.

If you want a general guideline, here are two thoughts. First, you can ignore this kind of difference most of the time. A beginner should ignore these differences before mastering the grammar. Second, this kind of difference gives you options that you can exploit for aesthetics and emphasis.

For example, this sentence has parallel meanings but lacks grammatical parallelism:

The house had walls that were painted purple, a roof leaking water, and a front door to be replaced.

It's more elegant, stronger, and clearer if you use the same construction each time, like this:

The house had walls that were painted purple, a roof that leaked water, and a front door that needed replacement.

Recurring rhythm is an important rhetorical device, and the options provided by grammar give you a lot of opportunities to create recurring rhythm. Another aesthetic use of these kinds of grammatical options is to make a line of poetry scan (that is, fit the rhythmic pattern of the poem).

I find this revision a little stronger and more elegant, perhaps because it ends on a stressed syllable, and rhythm is often more satisfying when the last element of a list has more beats:

The house had walls that were painted purple, a roof that leaked water, and a front door that needed to be replaced.

Exploiting grammatical flexibility for rhetorical effect goes beyond plain communication and into excellence in speech and writing. I think it probably takes several years' experience to develop enough of an ear for the language to do it well.

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2

Please note that I'm not a mother-tongue speaker.

I would recommend you to use the infinitive in this case because it is shorter than the relative clause and IMHO also more aesthetically pleasing than both of the other possibilities. As far as I know, the infinitive is used quite often after "the first xxx." As a side note, I think that this expression appears more often in poems and the like, e.g. here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9oqi86yS3g (though in contexts in which they probably wouldn't be seen in prose, e.g. "for every eye to see")

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