Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

what's the meaning of "It is generally held that"?

e.g. It is generally held that already during this period Egypt was losing some of its power and dominance

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

It means that among the people who claim to know something about the subject, the most widely accepted theory is that which is "generally held".

So:

It is generally held that already during this period Egypt was losing some of its power and dominance.

Means

Most Egyptologists agree that during this period Egypt was losing some of its power and dominance.

Quite often this construction is used to introduce a conflicting idea that actually contradicts the generally held belief or conviction. After your sentence, one could write something like:

However, the results of our new research show that Egypt may have been shifting its focus into a different geographical area, and thereby effectively expanding its power.

share|improve this answer

The verb 'to hold' has a vast range of uses. It would be worth looking, if you have access, at the OED entry.

As well as it being generally 'held', as explained in the answer from @oerkelens, things can also be specifically held.

One will often, for example, see in a a report on a court judgement that 'It was held that...'. It means that the judge(s) determined, after due consideration, that the law was such and such. Here is an account (from Wikipedia) of one of the most famous judgments in English legal history, the 1932 case of Donaghue v Stevenson, which established the principle of commercial negligence.

Note how 'The House of Lords' (meaning the judicial committee of the House, sitting as a supreme court of appeal) held that the manufacturer was negligent.

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100 is a foundational case in Scots delict law and English tort law by the House of Lords. It created the modern concept of negligence, by setting out general principles whereby one person would owe another person a duty of care.

Also known as the "Paisley snail"[5][6] or "snail in the bottle" case, the facts involved Mrs Donoghue drinking a bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley, Renfrewshire. A dead snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product's safety would lead to harm of consumers.

'Hold' in this sense is not only applicable in law. One might well overhear someone saying 'My grandmother always held that fresh air cured anything'.

share|improve this answer

Replace "it"by "opinion", then you get: The opinion is generally held + that-clause.

share|improve this answer

It simply means most people think, or, most knowlegeable people think, but because most people think doesn't sound academic or formal, this expression, using the passive voice, has arisen.

It suggests that the writer acknowledges there are alternative, less consensual theories but he/she is not going to dwell on that debate because it is not his/her purpose.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.