I have two confusing sentences and I am in two minds whether the first or the second is more grammatically correct:

  1. He was by far the most knowledgeable person to have commented on the subject, so it would have been foolish to disregard his opinions.

  2. He was by far the most knowledgeable person commenting on the subject, so it would have been foolish to disregard his opinions.

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    They're both fine. So is to comment, which more accurately reflects the tense of #2. But I think there's something not quite right about the usage of since here - you should probably be using so, thus, hence. – FumbleFingers Apr 19 '15 at 14:39
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    This is a property of the superlative construction (try it without the most knowledgeable). Superlatives are accompanied by propositions about the set being awarded a maximum member, which are sometimes stated as clauses, or as infinitives or gerunds, or as prepositional phrases, or just understood in context. There are a lot of choices available. – John Lawler Apr 19 '15 at 14:56

The meanings are different:

  1. His commenting had been completed before the "was," reflecting the main time instant in the past that is considered.

  2. His commenting was still taking place at that very time, in parallel.


since --> thus

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    No, the gerund can mean it's still going on, but as a rule it doesn't have to. When the school board took up the proposal last night, she turned out to be the most persuasive person commenting. – John Lawler Apr 19 '15 at 14:52
  • @JohnLawler But wasn't her "commenting" still going on at the time the proposal was taken up during the discussions last night? At least for part of the time? – Marius Hancu Apr 19 '15 at 17:01
  • But it isn't going on at the time of reporting, and all it means is that she is one of the people who commented at the meeting. It's just a gerund; it's not the progressive construction. They're completely different, as different as infinitive to go and present tense we go, but they use the same verb form, same as infinitive and present tense do. – John Lawler Apr 20 '15 at 3:14

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