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When we compare this with his [Milton's] later prose writings, when he moved closer to the victorious Cromwellian ascendancy, we find that pragmatism usurped idealism, not completely but sufficient to suggest that for Milton the Civil War was a horribly educative process.

The above is from A Milton Sourcebook, by Bradford. The bold emphasis is mine.

It seems to me that 'sufficient' should modify a noun phrase, eg 'the almost complete usurpation of idealism by pragmatism is sufficient to suggest...'

Yet the original construction quoted above seems to need an adverb - 'usurped it sufficiently to suggest'.

In your opinion, is 'sufficient' an acceptable synonym for 'enough'?

Is the construction grammatically correct?

Is the metaphoric packaging (usurpation suggesting; war = process) confusing the structure?

Is the use of 'sufficient' here specialist in some way?

  • Given that I've now read this sentence, 'Milton, in the early years of the Civil War, perceived the conflict as propitiate to the best that could be hoped for by fallen man.', where I would have expected 'propitiatory', I assume there's a disconnection in syntax and meaning that is due to poor editing, or hasty writing, or both. – Leon Conrad Apr 4 '14 at 13:57
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I think the confusion arises here from the use of a preposition.

For example, both of these sentences sound idiomatic to me:

1a. He did not sufficiently tighten the safety bolt.
2a. His effort was not sufficient to tighten the safety bolt.

But both of these sound unidiomatic:

1b. He did not sufficient tighten the safety bolt.
2b. His effort was not sufficiently to tighten the safety bolt.

The excerpt you quote is the equivalent of saying:

He tightened the safety bolt, not completely, but sufficient to protect the crew.

It is not ideal, for the same reason 1b. is not ideal. The trap the author has fallen into is that, because of the syntax, the construction sounds enough like 2a. that it no longer strikes the ear as non-idiomatically as it otherwise would. In other words, because we are used to hearing "sufficient to" as a complete piece of lexis in construction 2a, we tend to accept it even here where it is incorrect.

To approach this from another way: you can tell that there is a problem with the sentence because if you reduce the sentence by removing unnecessary clauses, you eventually end up with something that is clearly ungrammatical/unidiomatic:

  • We find that pragmatism usurped idealism, not completely but sufficient to suggest that for Milton the Civil War was a horribly educative process.
  • It usurped idealism, not completely but sufficient to suggest something.
  • It usurped idealism sufficient to suggest something.

To my ear, the shortened version sounds clearly unidiomatic, and I suspect if the sentence was not so complicated, the author would have thought so too. The unnecessary parallelism (not x, but y) is most likely what led him or her astray.

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Adjectives used as adverbs, are not uncommon in English:

Some of the most common and vigorously discussed are: "bright" and "safe"

  • "The sun is shining bright." ["bright" here used as an adverb.]
  • "The light is not bright enough." ["bright" here is used as an adjective.]
  • "Be careful and always drive safe." ["safe" here is used as an adverb]

  • "He is trying to escape to a safe place."["safe" here is used as an adjective]

Your example might be another authoritative instance.

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    I wouldn't go as far as to say the adjective parading as an adverb is common or acceptable in formal or academic writing. The juxtaposition of The two forms is what makes Apple's slogan 'think different' work. If that then becomes the norm, as it is becoming in AmE, you lose the original motive for substituting, and lose clarity of expression. Whichever form you use, the distinction remains. What's the point of merging the forms? – Leon Conrad Apr 4 '14 at 13:33
  • I see your point, and you are right to raise this issue. But I think that, being the language an alive entity, despite its rules, it is always undergoing changes which take shape slowly but inevitably. Usage will in the end be the base for new rules. So I don't think there is an answer to your question " what's the point of merging the forms?". We can only register trends and changes in the language, though we are conscious of the rules that govern it. This is my view. – user66974 Apr 4 '14 at 14:39
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    'Adjectives used as adverbs, are not uncommon in English' vs 'I wouldn't go as far as to say the adjective parading as an adverb is common or acceptable in formal or academic writing.'? I'm with Leon here. There are quite a few flat adverbs, but 'sufficient' isn't one of them. And I've seen little evidence to suggest it's heading that way (by zero derivation). Some flat adverbs even have meanings different from the corresponding -ly forms: 'He flew direct to Cairo' =/= 'He flew directly (ie at once) to Cairo'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 4 '14 at 19:30
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In informal English adjectives are sometimes used as adverbs, but in academic writing we expect more exact standards. The author should have written sufficiently or enough.

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