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A. We cannot consider worthless people who...

B. It cannot be considered worthless people who...

C. People who... cannot be considered worthless.

I would like to say the sentences like A. My biggest problem is due to B, as I wonder if it is correct.

Any comment would be appreciated

  • You need a pause after "worthless" in A and B. I suggest using "the" with 'people': "We cannot consider worthless the people who..." And 'B' starts wrong. "People" are not "it". – Victor Bazarov Sep 13 '15 at 12:49
  • Thank you so much. So, how could we say B with"it" as an impersonalized refrence ? – nima Sep 13 '15 at 12:55
  • I can't think of any way to say it besides something like "It would be a mistake to consider worthless the people who..." – Victor Bazarov Sep 13 '15 at 13:16
  • @Victor: The obvious way is OP's example #C, where the significant adjective (worthless) appears in its natural position at the end of the statement. People are just being clumsy who use OP's format #A - it's much more idiomatic to say people who use OP's format #A are just being clumsy. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 13 '15 at 15:03
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We need a more complete context to examine this usage in detail, so let's look at...

1: We cannot consider worthless people who get drunk on New Year's Eve.

...which has two different possible meanings...

1a: We cannot consider [as] worthless those people who get drunk on New Year's Eve.
(They are not worthless, and we should not label them as such.)

1b: We cannot consider those worthless people who get drunk on New Year's Eve.
(They are worthless, and we should not take them into account in our present deliberations.)

In speech, sense 1a would normally be unambiguously conveyed by stressing the word worthless, but italicizing it in the written form wouldn't necessarily have the same effect anyway. That's because there are two potential "sub-nuances"...

1a1: ...worthless isn't the best possible word here (following text may suggest better alternatives).
1b1: ...[they are not] worthless is a simple refutation (they do have some merit).

Partly because of these potential semantic ambiguities, OP's example A is thus at least "problematic" in the written form (plus it's a somewhat stylized/stilted word order). B is simply ungrammatical. But C is perfectly natural and unambiguous.


The only way I can think of to introduce "existential it" in OP's context would be something like...

2: It would be wrong to consider people who get drunk on New Year's Eve [as / to be] worthless.

That's to say it references either the specific action consider people who [blah blah] OR "judgement" as a general concept. It can't be used in such contexts to directly refer to the [worthless] people themselves.

  • Actually worthless will be stressed in both versions of the sentence. The difference will be that the 1a reading will have two IPs, two complete musical tunes. The first will end on the word worthless, the second on EVE. In the 1b sentence worthless will appear in the middle of the IP. There will probably be only one IP and it will end on the word Eve. So the 1a reading will involve a nuclear syllable on the words worthless and eve, 1b will just have one on eve. But worthless will definitely be stressed in both readings. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Sep 13 '15 at 16:46
  • @Araucaria: I didn't bother trying to cover exactly how my "sub-nuances" would/could be disambiguated in speech/writing because it was straying too far from OP's central issue concerning "existential it". But I agree both involve placing stress on worthless. In speech, #1b1 would be "light" stress (just enough to steer the audience away from what might otherwise be the more likely interpretation #1b above). But the #1a1 sense would have heavy stress (which I might feasibly represent in writing by enclosing "worthless" in scare quotes). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 13 '15 at 17:18

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