I came across a sentence puzzling me, can you tell me whether the use of "that of" parts is correct? why or why not.

"You have been working here for 10 years, do you really need me to tell you whether your behavior is that of bad or that of good?"

Can I just say "...whether your behavior is bad or good"? Thank you in advance!

  • .....that bad or that good. – user66974 Jan 14 '16 at 12:57
  • Yeah, okay, this is nonsense. Where did you come across this, uh, sentence? – Ricky Jan 14 '16 at 12:57
  • One of my friend was fired for letting a top-secret slip. His boss told him so. If it doesn't make sense, how do you put it? Thank you! – Satomi Jan 14 '16 at 13:07
  • Never mind the comma splice after "years," that of bad or that of good what? Behavior? People? Employees? What? That of bad what? That of good what? – Benjamin Harman Jan 14 '16 at 13:37
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    @Satomi Ricky I've come across it before. It's easy to understand, though it is somewhat idiomatic of course. It can be paraphrased as ... whether your behavior is characteristic of bad or characteristic of good. – BillJ Jan 14 '16 at 16:10

The phrase that of is incomplete without a noun, at least in common usage. The bad and good are adjectives. So yes,

"...is bad or good"

is appropriate. To keep the of (which you don't need), you could say something like

"... that of a bad person or that of a good person"

but there no need.

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    Good-natured and trying to be helpful, hence the +1. Probably wrong, though. There's something hiding behind the "that-a-bad" that we're not quite catching ... deducing ... deciphering correctly. – Ricky Jan 14 '16 at 13:03
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    @Ricky it's definitely possible... Although maybe just a muddled mind behind a simple statement. Capitalize the G and B and place them in Lord of the Rings and those words are doing much more work than I'm giving them credit for here (for instance). – jimm101 Jan 14 '16 at 13:12
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    For the record, I do think that Baum was infinitely more talented, not to mention life-affirming, than Tolkien. – Ricky Jan 14 '16 at 13:36

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