I have a question about a possible grammatical error in this sentence: "We hope you find our toilets in good condition". I came across it lately on one of the mall's notice boards. In my opinion this sentence is lacking the verb are. I mean: "We hope (that) you find (that) our toilets ARE in good condition". Could somebody be so kind as to explain why are is missing? Regards.

  • Sometimes, we need to sacrifice precision for brevity, I think. – Omega Sep 20 '13 at 18:48
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    I don't think this sacrifices any precision. It's no ellipsis anyway, but rather an entirely different (and perfectly grammatical) construction in its own right. Very common in all Germanic languages, too. – RegDwigнt Sep 20 '13 at 19:15
  • I'm not sure I totally understand your question. But yes it does sound better as toilets are in good condition. Note: not conditions. – dcaswell Sep 20 '13 at 19:23
  • I think it is a kinda elliptical sentence..where we can easily understand the omitted words. h – Sweet72 Sep 20 '13 at 19:27
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    @user814064 If you are enquiring about the toilets, use condition. If you are enquiring about the environment where the toilets are located, use conditions. In that respect, either sounds correct if not "better" than the other. – Stan Sep 20 '13 at 20:00

To answer as simply as possible, I would point out that you are changing the meaning of the sentence when you add that as you suggest. Those thats are not implied, nor are they missing from the original sentence. Don't redesign a sentence if you don't understand it; you have to take it as it stands and see what you can make of it.

As it stands, it is quite a simple and commonly used construction. Keep in mind that "find" is a transitive verb which takes an object. In this case, the trick in understanding is that the object is not the toilets themselves, but the condition of the toilets. The management hopes that what you find is their good condition. It would, however, be slightly awkward to say "we hope you find the good condition of our toilets," so they say it thus: "we hope you find our toilets in good condition." And yes, you could say that they want you to find (discover, learn, realize, come to know) "that the toilets are in good condition," but what this really MEANS is they want you to find the fixed, static, completed state of their being in good condition, or to put it more simply (to come all the way back around to my first point), their "good condition."

Perhaps an even simpler way of understanding this is to view it this way: Just say that the direct object (phrase) of the verb "find" is toilets in good condition. Simple as pie.


Short answer: No ARE should be inserted, for this construction is perfectly valid and used all around by all all the time.

Long answer: One thing of which this construction is not the case—is ellipsis. It looks like an elliptical construction, but looks can be deceiving.

The verb find can syntactically behave in several ways, depending on its meaning. It can be of complete predication (as termed by a syntactic analysis more than a century old and today superseded, yet still handy at times), thus be intransitive (The jury found for the defendant.). Conversely, it can be of incomplete predication, thus be transitive; more specifically, it can be monotransitive (I found them!) or ditransitive (We found her a boyfriend., where both direct and indirect objects appear). In your sentence, find is of incomplete predication and monotransitive: ... find ... toilets. Of course, what we want to know is what that mysterious thingamajig following the direct object is.

On to a tiny bit more recent analysis: structural grammar. Its older version (although, just because they are evolved, it doesn't mean the more contemporary grammars don't leak here and there, too) will provide a simple, easy-to-digest step in comprehending the op sentence's syntax. According to structural grammar, sentences can feature modifiers, which are constituents that modify the meaning of a noun, verb, adverb, or even an entire predication. For example, the adjective hygienic is a modifer in hygienic toilets; in Hurriedly, they dug him out., the adverb hurriedly modifies the entire predication they dug him out. A modifier doesn't have to be simple (so obtusely is a modifer in I'm writing so obtusely.); a modifier can even be a clause. As demonstrative of incomplete predication and transitivy, such a standpoint can be taken (with the help of the adverbial theory, even if it has objections) from which objects too are seen as modifiers—modifying the predicate. The sentence We are reading a rather obtuse answer., then, actually means We are reading rather-obtuse-answer-ly. Moreover, modifiers can be optional (as in You are reading keenly.), or obligatory (as in You are reading this sentence). The latter point, about objects, is not part of the traditional grammar, but rather is a historical jump forward that illuminates some of the dependencies mentioned and serves as a segue to the next point, of which traditional grammar was, to an extent, aware. Objects themselves can be modified! And all so optionally and obligatorily.

Upon that, I definitely move onto a more contemporary grammar. Roughly equivalent to traditional optional modifiers are constituents called adjuncts. When removed from a sentence, adjuncts will not affect the remainder of the sentence, except to discard from it some auxiliary information. In the op sentence We hope you find our toilets in good condition. (erroneously written "conditions" by OP), it is evident that if in good condition is removed, either the verb find will acquire one of its other meanings ("to discover by searching") and the intended message will have been lost, or, with the reading left unchanged,—the sentence will become incomplete. Incomplete? Even though the object (our toilets), just as well as the verb and the subject, will have remained intact? o_O

I am closer to the crux. We all know that the verb is the main part of the sentence. Well, in a more formal tenor, the verbal predicate is. The predicate is modifed (or "modified", to dispense with the traditional sense of modification) not only by the object, but so too by the subject. That is due to valency (verbal valency). Valency is the characteristic of predicates that is manifested in their commanding of the number and type of constituents that can or must appear around them. These constituents serve to complete the meaning of a predicate.

Some analytical approaches view those constituents as arguments and use that term. That view is of limited help for discovering the deep syntax of sentences. Here's a quote from an online "grammar encyclopedia" by Professor Richard Hudson of one of the world's most prestigious universities, UCL (punctuation mine, as well as some aesthetic changes):

In some theories a word (especially a verb) has an argument structure which determines its syntactic valency, which in turn is determined by the word's semantic valency. For example, a transitive verb may have an internal and an external argument which map, syntactically, onto an object and a subject, and semantically, onto a patient role and an agent role. Argument structure is a kind of extra level of structure in between syntax and semantics; but unlike syntax and semantics, argument structure only exists in the word's lexical entry. Thus, the whole sentence has no argument structure which links all the sentence's words, as opposed to the syntactic and semantic structures, which do link them.

For a quick overview, Wikipedia has a page about arguments, where it also mentions overlapping in (and, possibly, confusion across) grammars between, on the one hand, the term for and utility of the notion of argument, and on the other, that of the structural element whose description follows soon.

Roughly equivalent to traditional obligatory modifiers are constituents called valents: 'Valent' is a fundamental grammatical relationship contrasting with 'adjunct'. There are two main types of valents: subjects (they are obligatory for any tensed verb) and complements. It is the complement that overlaps in meaning and/or is confused with the argument. So much about arguments. The complement, anyway, as a term has a much longer history with the grammarians, even if its exact meaning has changed over time. Still, it has always carried the sense of completing something. It used to be thought that the subject is what ultimately, through a chain of dependencies, everything complements. It has been discovered that all complementation—is ultimately about the verbal predicate. For example, the direct object is one of the most frequent complements.

I am now but a few steps from the main point. As mentioned, objects themselves can be modified. And, it's now clear, not by the predicate. In the op sentence, the myterious thingamajig in good conditions is a complement that completes the direct object our toilets. It certainly does not complete the subjects of the clauses, we and you. (In-good-condition we? No, no. In-good-condition you? No.) It doesn't complete the verbs, either. (In-good-condition-ly hope? Nah. In-good-condition-ly find? Sure, when pigs fly. No.) What's left? The object. In-good-conditionous our toilets? Hm, neither yes nor no. There's something hinky about it. Well, the rule about the order of adjectives and determiners says the predeterminers (all, both, half (of)) and determiners (our is not a pronoun, but a determiner here; cf. pronouns are actually determiners) are placed farthest from the head noun; so, let's order those adjectives by the Robert's Rules. Our in-good-conditionous toilets? Yes!

The myterious thingamajig in good conditions is called objective complement or object complement. As linked:

The objective complement itself might be either another noun or pronoun, or it might be an adjective or a construction functioning like an adjective. The notion is that the objective complement of the verb functions to provide information about the object of the verb.

Very well. But, how does it come that in good conditions completes our toilets, when it's neither a noun, nor a pronoun, nor an adjective?

And, finally, I have arrived at the crux of the matter.

The thingamajig in good condition is a prepositional phrase. (No, that's not the crux, hold on.) As shown earlier by a brute force attack, the PP completes DO, but there are other tests too that we can carry out to corroborate the findings. E.g., does not that PP render the general notion of our toilets more specified? Instead of simply our toilets, we have something more specific. That is what adjectives do. Ergo, this PP is functioning as an adjective. For all intents and purposes, it is an adjective. So, the construction is nothing but the well-known construction seen frequently in sentences such as: I find your tractate dull. It's almost the same as the ubiquitous (and less literary) construction of, e.g., I consider you a friend., only, with a noun in place of an adjective.

Considering everything stated so far, I conclude: no ARE should be inserted.

But, wait! ripped was the air by somebody's caterwaul. How can it be that an adjective is sitting in an adverb position? Well, that position is permitted to be taken also by an adjective. Of that, informs this source. Of that, informed also some sources many, many a year ago, such as Thomas Embly Osmun AKA Alfred Ayres in his opus 'The Verbalist · A Manual Devoted to Brief Discussions of the Right and the Wrong Use of Words and to Some Other Matters of Interest to Those Who Would Speak and Write with Propriety' back in the Lord's year of 1882. To wit:

Adjectives. "Very often adjectives stand where adverbs might be expected; as, 'drink deep,' 'this looks strange,' 'standing erect.'
"The employment of adjectives for adverbs is accounted for by the following considerations:
"(3.) There are cases where the subject is qualified rather than the verb, as with verbs of incomplete predication, 'being,' 'seeming,' 'arriving,' etc. In 'the matter seems clear,' 'clear' is part of the predicate of 'matter.' 'They arrived safe': 'safe' does not qualify 'arrived,' but goes with it to complete the predicate. So, 'he sat silent,' 'he stood firm.' 'It comes beautiful' and 'it comes beautifully' have different meanings.


I agree with RegDwighт♦ on this. The omission of to be in this sentence is similar to the frequent omission of to be following verbs like to consider and sometimes to think.

I consider the car beautiful.

I find the car beautiful.

Incidentally, if you add that after find, then you now must add are after our toilets.

I find that the car is beautiful.

In summary, in the original sentence,

We hope you find our toilets in good conditions.

(and I think it should be "in good condition"), the omission is not of are but of to be.

If the sentence is written with that following our toilets, then it would be written,

We hope you find that our toilets are in good condition.

without the possibility of omitting are.


In elliptical sentences , omitted words are easily understood...Please visit this wikipedia link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliptical_construction to know more about elliptical sentences..

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