Consider this expression

These are the people who I don't want to know about X.

What I want to say here is that

I don't want these people to know about X;

So is the first expression correct? If not what can I do to improve it?

3 Answers 3


The problem with the first sentence is that it has two uncoordinated subjects - who and I. To avoid that, you would have to say something like These are the people who, as far as I am concerned, don't want to know about X.

  • 2
    I don't get that. OP's version means I hope these people don't find out about X, but your version would normally mean I believe these people aren't interested in X Apr 6, 2013 at 23:42
  • @FumbleFingers. Perhaps. It may be necessary to recast the whole thing as ‘I don’t want these people to know about X.’ That, I realise, weakens the emphasis, but it avoids the distraction. I’m assuming, by the way, that the OP’s sentence is a written one. The sentence may be found in speech, but on the printed page it is likely to draw attention to its construction at the expense of its meaning. Apr 7, 2013 at 6:25

Your sentence seems correct but it is not very clear. This is especially so because the I in the sentence is not followed by something you could do; instead it is something you want not to happen to the people (who I don't want to know about X).

A modification would be:

These are the people from whom I want to hide X's identity.

These are the very people from whom I want to hide X.

These are the very people from whom I want to hide X.

In these sentences, the emphasis is on the people, but the action of hiding is all yours.

  • "I want to hide X from them" is different from "I don't want they know about X." At least to me, the first implies doing something actively, while the second doesn't imply I am going to do something. For example, if I say "I don't want my father knows why I went in the USA" to somebody else, that doesn't mean I am going to kill everybody who knows why I went in the USA; it could just mean I prefer if the person to whom I am speaking doesn't tell my father why I went in the USA.
    – apaderno
    Apr 6, 2013 at 21:52

Your sentence works to the degree that, in the context of existing conversational knowledge, probably 95% of native English speakers will see no problem with it.

It's not the most formal or literary way to phrase your sentence, but in speech it works without real issue. In contrast, the modifications found in Sultan's response to your question are more correct phrasings, but would sound very stiff and formal in typical speech.

A variation that would also work in speech (though slightly less grammatical) would be to substitute who for that:

These are the people that I don't want to know about my pet frog.

Native English speakers use these forms often. Consider this in light of the helpful comments from other users here about more correct modifications to your sentence.

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