I've found a sentence that sounds weird to me from ted video.

He is talking about why we all need to practice emotional first aid.

and here's a sentence.

Our minds and our feelings, they're not the trustworthy friends we thought they were.

I think this sentence would sound better, if I rephrase like this.

Our minds and our feelings, they're not as trustworthy friends as we think they are

I have no idea why he used past tense: thought and were. Am I right to think this way?

  • Well your second sentence is actually incorrect. The correct sentence is - Our minds and our feelings, they are not as trustworthy a friend as we think they are. To me there is a difference between your suggested sentence and the original sentence. While in your suggested sentence there is chance of them being at least a bit trustworthy, the original sentence suggests that they are not at all trustworthy. Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:39

2 Answers 2


The original sentence is fine. The speaker wants to say

  1. In the past we thought that our minds and feelings were friends (those friends existed only in the past. So the idea is that as trustworthy friends, they do not exist now. They only existed in the past, in our imagination.

How about this example:

I saw some people walking toward me. From a long distance away, half an hour ago, I thought they were my friends Jihoon and Ha-neul from school. But those people finally arrived, and are here with me now. They turned out to be not Jihoon and Ha-neul, but two of my work friends instead. They are not the two classmates I thought they were.


The "as ... as" construction does not work with a noun as the first argument.

We could say "They're not as trustworthy as we think they are."  The adjective "trustworthy" fits this construction nicely.  We could even say "They're not as trustworthy and friendly as we think they are." -- the compound adjective phrase also fits nicely.  We could even compound the complete first part of the "as ... as" construction: "They're not as trustworthy and as friendly as we think they are."

However, the speaker didn't use the adjective "friendly".  He used the noun "friends".

Even though it makes sense to say "They are not as friendly as we think they are", it does not make much sense to say "They are not as friends as we think they are."1  When "as" takes a noun as its argument, it means something different and it stops working as the start of an "as ... as" construction.

If we really wanted to, we could keep the second "as":  "They are not friends as we think they are."  However, this can imply that they are friends -- merely friends of a different nature than we understand.

Let's not forget that we've learned something.  We used to think that our minds and feelings were our friends.  We don't think so today.  The past tense in the original marks that we've changed our minds.  We no longer think what we once thought.  Wouldn't it be foolish to keep making the same mistake, even after we've already learned better?

Perhaps our minds and feelings are still our friends.  We were wrong in our thinking yesterday, and it's possible we're wrong about different things today.  Perhaps our minds and feelings are still even trustworthy in some fashion.  Even if so, they are not the same as the trustworthy friends that we used to imagine them to be.

Yesterday, we thought that they were trustworthy friends.  We changed our minds.  Today, we probably think that they are unreliable acquaintances.

1 The sentence "They are not, as friends, as we think they are" does make some sense.  However, it means that they are friends -- they merely serve in that capacity differently than we expect.  This is not the speaker's intended meaning.  He simply denies that they are what we mistook them to be in the past.

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