I wonder whether there exists any difference between the following two sentence structures:

  • I find X to be Y
  • I find that X is Y


  • I find the research literature not to be optimally organized.
  • I find that the research literature is not optimally organized.

Do they carry a similar meaning, and can they be used interchangeably?

  • I guess the former is more formal, that's all that's crucial. But a native is maybe finding more subtleties.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 18, 2015 at 19:15

2 Answers 2


To me, they have essentially the same meaning. The difference is subtle, but I think "I find X to be Y" has a slight suggestion that this is your personal opinion, whereas "I find that X is Y" suggests more that it is a fact you have discovered. Otherwise, "I find that X is Y" is simpler to read and understand.


This issue has been covered on ELU, but it's worth noting the first comment to the question in that link - This is a question about an obscure feature of English that makes no sense.

Paraphrasing part of a comment from one of our most knowledgeable contributors on ELU...

think does allow an infinitive complement with Raising to Object, provided it's passivized:
He is thought to be about 50 is grammatical,
I think him to be about 50 isn't passive, so it's "ungrammatical" (according to some "grammarians")

Besides OP's find and my think, several other verbs can accept an "infinitive complement" (X to be Y). But not all verbs work in all cases, and there's no simple rule, and no universal agreement on what is or is not "acceptable". Whereas the equivalent find/think/know/suspect [that] X is Y is always okay.

My advice for learners is simply to ignore this (increasingly, outdated) construction. It should be easy enough to understand the usage, but I don't see much point in trying to produce it yourself. It's never necessary, so why take the risk of getting it wrong?

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