a. He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week. It was in order to please his boss.
b. He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week. It was to please his boss.

 


c. He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week. It was in order not to displease his boss.
d. He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week. It was not to displease his boss.
e. He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week. It was to not displease his boss.


Which are grammatically correct and work in this context?

I find (c) and (d) somewhat problematic. (e) has a split infinitive. I don't think that is a big deal at all. But (d) can be read in two ways. It could mean the same as (c) and (e), but it could also mean
f. It wasn't to displease his boss.

Is that correct?

Many thanks.
Original Post
azz posted:
I find (c) and (d) somewhat problematic. (e) has a split infinitive. I don't think that is a big deal at all. But (d) can be read in two ways. It could mean the same as (c) and (e), but it could also mean
f. It wasn't to displease his boss.

Is that correct?

Hi, Azz,

Yes, I agree with your comments about the sentences. I don't think we need to explore the philosophical differences between trying to please someone and trying to avoid displeasing him or her. Suffice it to say that (a) and (b) are fine, and (c) and (d) are undesirable for the reason you indicate. And even though split infinitives aren't bad in themselves, (e) is pretty ugly. I suggest fixing (c), (d), and (e) all in precisely the same way -- by eliminating the sentence boundary between the first and second sentences and changing "It was (in order)" to "so as":

(c'/d'/e') He didn't say a word about what his boss's son had done in the office last week, so as not to displease his boss.

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