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Hi, Mao,

@mmd posted:

I came across the following sentence the book The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time.

He thought them to be indefensible. 

My question is, is it grammatical to add to be in this sentence?

That sentence is written in perfect English.

According to Guide to Patterns and Usage in English by A. S. Hornby (note that the spelling he uses is British):

Most of the verbs used in this pattern indicate an opinion, judgement, belief, supposition, declaration or mental perception. They are followed by a noun or pronoun, to be and an adjunct (an adjective or a noun). As shown in the examples to be is sometimes omitted. The perfect infinitive to have been is not omitted.

(Where Hornby says "adjunct" above, I'd call it an object complement.)

These are the examples the author provides:

1. Most peple considered him (to be) innocent.
2. They all felt the plan to be unwise.
3. We believe it to have been a mistake.
4. Everyone reported him to be the best man for the job.
5. I should guess her to be about fifty.
6. He declared himself (to be) the leader of the organizaiton.
7. All the neighbours supposed her to be a widow.
8.  I consider what he said (to be) unimportant.
9. I know this to be a fact.
10. I have always found Jonathan friendly/a good friend.
11. They knew the man to have been a spy.
12. The weather bulletin reports the roads (to be) clear of snow.
13. In Britain we pesume a man (to be) innocent until he is proved guilty.

According to Hornby, this pattern is typical of rather formal style and is more usual in written than in spoken English, where that-clauses are preferred:

- Most people considered (that) he was innocent.
- All the neighbours supposed (that) she was a widow.

The pattern can also be converted to the passive form:

- The plan was felt to be unwise.
- In Britain a man is presumed (to be) innocent until he is proved guilty.

Therefore, we can say:

We thought them (to be) indefensible = We thought that they were indefensible = They were thought (to be) indefensible.

Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor

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