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According to this dictionary, the verb "force" seems to have these two usage patterns:

p1. force somebody into doing something
p2. force somebody into something

Examples from that dictionary illustrating the two usages are:

e1 The President was forced into resigning.
e2 Ill health forced him into early retirement.

Example sentence e2 suggests that pattern p2 can only be used with a state noun (in retirement) and not an action noun (resignation). So, does that mean that this:

The president was forced into resignation.

is wrong?

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    RE: Example sentence e2 suggests that pattern p2 can only be used with a state noun (in retirement) and not an action noun (resignation). What a crazy assertion! An example sentence is just that, an example sentence. Just because one example sentence follows a particular structure doesn't mean all sentences must follow that structure. – J.R. Dec 31 '14 at 2:31
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Let's look at the actual definitions of force in the dictionary you referenced:

1 [often passive] to make somebody do something that they do not want to do

This definition refers to a force against the will of another person.

*The president was forced into resignation. (Against his will)*

  • Resignation is a noun, used as the object of the preposition into.

The President was forced into resigning. (Against his will)

  • Resigning is a noun form (gerund) of the verb resign, used as the object of the preposition into.

The President was forced to resign. (Against his will)

  • To resign is the infinitive of resign, used as an adverb.

All three sentences can have the same meaning:

The President didn't want to resign, but something overcame his will. The passive voice "was forced" is often the signal of this meaning. Just about any kind of adverb can modify was forced, and action adverbs work particularly well, because people can be forced to do things against their will.


The second definition of force shifts the focus a little bit:

2 to use physical strength to move somebody/something into a particular position

Now the definition refers to a strong person (or thing) moving another person (or thing) into a position:

Bad weather forced the plane to land.

  • Bad weather is the strong thing, plane is the thing being forced, and "to land" is the position.

Ill health forced him into early retirement.

  • Ill health is the strong thing, him is the person being forced, and retirement is the position.

The first sentence is a thing forcing another thing, so there is no "will" involved. The second sentence is a thing forcing a person, so maybe the meaning of forced is a combination of the first two definitions. Either way, you can use the same three methods to modify forced:

Ill health forced him into early retirement. (Against his will?)

  • Retirement is a noun, used as the object of the preposition into.

Ill health forced him into retiring early. (Against his will?)

  • Retiring is a noun, used as the object of the preposition into.

Ill health forced him to retire early. (Against his will?)

  • To retire is the infinitive of retire, used as an adverb.
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"Resignation" is a state, the state of having resigned. So "the president was forced into resignation" is perfectly valid.

"Resignation" can also be a process. "I submitted my letter of resignation."

That said, the word "resignation" is ambiguous. It can mean that someone has quit a job or office, or it can mean that someone has given up. That is, if you say, "After six failures, Bob fell into a state of resignation", you mean that he no longer has hope of succeeding.

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