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Consider this text:

JavaScript contains weird parts and some people like the idea of being able to avoid having to understand those parts.

It contains the construct

to like the idea of being able to avoid having to understand something

Is this construct grammatically correct? It seems fine to me but I'm not a native speaker so I can't tell for sure.

Also, does it sound weird? If yes, how would you say it instead?


Update:

I just noticed that I forgot to provide some context. Sorry about that.

So the idea is that there is this other programming language called "CoffeeScript". Some people choose to write in CoffeeScript instead of JavaScript because that means that they don't have to understand JavaScript and its weird parts. (CoffeeScript doesn't contain weird parts.)

So they like the idea of being able to avoid having to understand JavaScript by writing in CoffeeScript instead.

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It sounds like a case where ignorance is bliss. –  Mike Jones Oct 11 '11 at 6:42
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5 Answers

As @Barrie says, it's perfectly grammatical, if unduly convoluted.

In all honesty I'm not sure it's meaningful to retain all elements of the original. It's not clear, for example, whether the author is claiming that some people specifically like JavaScript because it allows them to avoid understanding all the details. Or if those people like the idea of not understanding, but in fact are compelled to understand anyway. Etc., etc.

In short, I think much of the sentence is just waffle. A shorter version might be...

JavaScript contains weird parts which some people would rather avoid.

Or maybe just Some people find JavaScript too complex.

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I've added some context to my question... –  Šime Vidas Oct 10 '11 at 19:12
    
@Šime Vidas: In light of which I've shortened my paraphrasing even more! –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '11 at 19:33
    
The quote isn't about Java; it's about JavaScript. The two are as alike (and about as closely related) as dogs and prairie dogs. –  jwodder Oct 11 '11 at 1:19
    
@jwodder: ty for pointing that out - not that it affects what I'm saying. –  FumbleFingers Oct 11 '11 at 1:26
    
"Some people like to avoid Javascript's weird parts". Short and sweet, but asserts that "Javascript has some weird parts" as a side-effect. –  slim Jan 17 '12 at 16:45
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It's grammatical, but could probably be put in a way that makes it easier for the reader to understand. I won't try because I don't know the context.

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As the others have said, there is nothing ungrammatical about the construction. I found it perfectly clear, although it does require a little mental gymnastics to keep the sense clear. It's like one of those "I know you know I knew, but did you know I knew you'd know I knew?" puzzles.

Let's look at your final example:

So they like the idea of being able to avoid having to understand JavaScript by writing in CoffeeScript instead.

This could be made clearer by removing "the idea of"; unless it was the actual idea and not the result of the idea they liked, no one should miss it.

So they like being able to avoid having to understand Javascript by writing in Coffeescript instead.

Next, let's get rid of "being able to": if we can do something, we are certainly "able" to do it, so that meaning is clear:

So they like to avoid having to understand Javascript by writing in Coffeescript instead.

And we might recast this remainder as

So they like that writing in Coffeescript lets them avoid having to understand Javascript.

Or even more simply

So they prefer the simplicity of Coffeescript to the complexities of Javascript.

Or any of a number of similar cogent yet concise statements.

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+1 I'd go for Coffeescript offers an accessible alternative to the sometimes complex Javascript. –  onomatomaniak Oct 11 '11 at 11:54
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Some sentence structures are recursive, so they could in theory be extended forever:

The fascinating witches who put the scintilating stitches in the breeches of the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Caractacus, were just passing by.

Your sentence is another example of this; you can keep adding to it for as long as you like.

  • some people like having to understand those parts.
  • some people like avoiding having to understand those parts.
  • some people like being able to avoid having to understand those parts.
  • some people like the idea of being able to avoid having to understand those parts. (your sentence)
  • some people like thinking about the idea of being able to avoid having to understand those parts.
  • some people like the opportunity to think about the idea of being able to avoid having to understand those parts.
  • some people like pursuing the opportunity to think about the idea of being able to avoid having to understand those parts.
  • ... and so on

Of course, beyond a certain length, the sentence becomes difficult to follow. It's a matter of style. A good editor would probably shorten your example sentence, or break it into two sentences.

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Your grammar is fine, and the sentence was perfectly understandable to me, even before you provided more context. I admit that it is a bit convoluted, though, so many readers would have to stop and re-read the sentence before they could make sense of it.

JavaScript contains weird parts, and some people like [the idea of (being able to <avoid {having to understand those parts}>)].

To simplify it, you can probably omit the "idea of" part and still say more or less the same thing:

JavaScript contains weird parts and some people like being able to avoid having to understand those parts.

To be very clear about it, you could write something like

JavaScript contains weird parts, and some people like that CoffeeScript lets them avoid having to understand those parts.

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