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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 12:57
  • Yeah, okay, this is nonsense. Where did you come across this, uh, sentence?
    – Ricky
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 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? Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:03
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 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
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:36

Yes, the sentence is grammatically correct, I guess the person who wrote it was just trying to sound fancy. I would've used something like, "is that of good or bad nature" or just anything to add a little something to it so that it is not so hard to read. It is grammatically correct though.

  • 1
    I'd mark it wrong in an essay. Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 16:33

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