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That looks like fun, but dangerous.

Is that sentence grammatically correct? Is there anything wrong with it?

I think it might be grammatically incorrect because if you remove the word "fun," then it becomes

That looks like dangerous.

which is obviously incorrect.

I think to be grammatically correct, it should be something like

That looks like fun, but it's dangerous.

or

That looks like fun, but it also looks dangerous.

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Do you have any specific reason to think it's not grammatically correct? –  kiamlaluno Apr 3 '11 at 9:58
    
possible duplicate of "Like" versus "as" –  kiamlaluno Apr 3 '11 at 10:04
    
I updated the question. I don't see how it's a duplicate. –  language hacker Apr 3 '11 at 10:17
    
It is a duplicate if you are only wondering about using like instead of as. When I reported this answer as duplicate of the other one, you had not yet expanded the question. –  kiamlaluno Apr 3 '11 at 22:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Well, I see nothing wrong with it. It is a rhetorical device known as ellipsis, which involves the removing of expected words for effect.

Why is it not only correct but actually good? Ward Farnsworth ascribes these traits to ellipsis:

  • a. An ellipsis involves the audience in an utterance; the reader or listener fills in the missing language, consciously or not.
  • b. Missing words sometimes are a small surprise. The result may be a moment of emphasis on whatever was omitted.
  • c. The omission of words can create a sense of brevity, energy, and elegance.
  • d. Often an ellipsis occurs because a later phrase borrows a word from an earlier one. The effect of this can be to tie two phrases together more snugly and strengthen the link between them.

I submit that

That looks like fun, but dangerous.

at least employs the effects described in (c) and (d) above, and probably (a) as well. And as the meaning is understood immediately by all but the slowest or most obstinate minds, there is no harm done to the sense of the communication. What else could "dangerous" possibly refer to but "That"?

Also, it's much better than filling in the missing words:

That looks like fun, but looks dangerous.

or, because now fussiness has taken over, the left brain will cry for more words to be added to nail it all down even more:

That looks like fun, but it also looks dangerous.

Neither of these improves the original. One might say the latter slowly, using extra words to make sure someone (a child perhaps) got the meaning crystal clear, but in most cases such over-emphasis would not be necessary. Making something longer does not necessarily make it better. As Pascal once wrote to a friend, "I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter."

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1  
Shorter still: "That looks fun, but dangerous". Who says I can't use "fun" as an adjective? ;-) –  psmears Apr 3 '11 at 18:32
    
@psmears: Yeah, that occurred to me as well, but I wanted to stick to the OP's first clause verbatim. –  Robusto Apr 3 '11 at 18:46

You are correct, "That looks like fun, but dangerous" is not right. Your suggestions would work, but I would be inclined to just remove the "like" from the sentence instead, to make it "That looks fun, but dangerous". The "like" in the sentence only weakens it, and isn't necessary.

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Nicholas Ainsworth refers to ellipsis, which is where we can remove words from a sentence that are already understood by the reader/listener.

In the case of ellipsis, the grammatical structure set out in the first part must be conformed to by the latter.

In the example given,

That looks like fun, but dangerous

Would have to become

That looks like fun but that looks like dangerous.

Therefore, to correct this you should choose:

That looks fun but dangerous. That looks fun but (that looks) dangerous.

You could also go for:

That looks like it's fun but dangerous. That looks like fun but also looks dangerous.

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It is grammatical: In English certain parts of a sentence may be removed but understood. This is an example.

So the 'grammatical' version you wrote just includes those missing parts. I can say: 'I ate apples and (I ate) oranges.'

I can remove 'I ate'

Also I can say: 'I saw the killer - and (I saw) Jack.'

Also: 'I slept and (I) missed my appointment.'

Some grammarians call the process of removing these elements 'elipsis'.

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