''I forgive X everything because of his obsolete smile.''

Now, this is an aphorism that I think holds the key to many responses regarding the acrimony of some authors, especially that of the moralists. The words from above are from E.M. Cioran's book ''The Trouble With Being Born'', translated into English by Richard Howard.

But what if I want to say something like: Yesterday I run into a man; who could it be if not X, the man I forgive everything/of whom I forgive everything/whom I forgive everything because of his obsolete smile. Which is the correct one? Are there more viable options?

The confusion that settled in my brain rises, in part, from the fact that in French the above mentioned aphorism goes like this: ''Je pardonne tout à X, à cause de son sourire démodé.'', and in part because I'm Romanian, and thus Romanian is my mother idiom, a romance language that has little to do with the English language rules. So, I would've translated the sentence from French as ''I forgive everything of X, because of his obsolete smile.''

Is it grammatical? Is it proper? Is there any need of ''of''?

  • It isn't I forgive everything of John. It is I forgive John of everything.Hence ipso facto you should say The man whom I forgive of everything. At least that much is right, but you have got me wondering if you can also forgive something of John – WS2 May 9 '16 at 23:45
  • @WS2 ''I forgive this sloppy writing manner of John.'' - I can't tell for sure, but it sounds legit to me, even if I can't really discern between it and ''I forgive John of this sloppy writing manner.'' Perhaps in the second one the emphasis clearly falls upon John, he's the one forgiven, whereas in the first sentence the manner of writing is forgiven of John... But wouldn't it then be preferable to say ''I forgive John everything.''; ''The man I forgive everything.''? – Antonio Nanu May 10 '16 at 17:57
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    I forgive this sloppy writing manner of John is rather different. In that instance of is being used to form the genitive. It would be equivalent to saying I forgive John's sloppy writing manner. Or I forgive John of his sloppy writing manner. My question is whether it would be correct to say I forgive everything of John.And would it be the same as I forgive John of everything? – WS2 May 10 '16 at 19:13

The full form of your sentence is:

''I forgive X for everything because of his smile.''

(I removed 'obsolete' because it doesn't affect the answer, and because I'm pretty sure you are using the wrong word here).

Here are usage examples. You will find "forgive X of everything" used, but it is used less frequently. 'For' is used in dictionary examples. It's OK to omit the 'for' if the meaning is clear.

The correct form of your rearranged sentence is therefore:

The man I forgive for everything.


The full and correct grammatical form is I forgive [person] for [things]

I believe that omitting the "for" is a literary device, allowed because of poetic licence and not because it is grammatically correct, and I admit that in the original it does sound better.

As with many literary devices, when put into a sentence of a different construction, the magic disappears. I would therefore stick with the technically-correct "... John, whom I forgive for everything."

As a last sidenote, I dislike "obsolete" for "démodé" here. Obsolete is largely used for technology in English, and less for fashion. It's worth at least considering "outdated", "old-fashioned", or suchlike.

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    You say the correct form is: I forgive [person] of [things]? Do you have any evidence for this? I can't find it in the OED, and the constructions I'm used to hearing is I forgive [person] for [things], I forgive [things] of [person], and I forgive [person] [things]. I checked several ESL websites and the only one they seem to condone is forgive [person] for [things]. – Peter Shor Jun 22 '16 at 13:36
  • My bad - was getting confused with "absolve" which does take "of". I think the rest of the post stands with "for" instead. Will edit shortly. – almcnicoll Jul 25 '16 at 19:50

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