I read the following sentence from the NYT, and am not sure how this structure works, grammatically or idiomatically:

The angriest Obama became with Clinton, Landler says, concerned the Arab Spring and the uprising in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

I guess it supposed to be "The angriest Obama became with Clinton when the issue was concerned with the Arab Spring and the uprising in Egypt's Tahrir."

With the original sentence, I am confused exactly what is being modified by "concerned." And I am not sure if "concerned" is a proper way to say instead of "concerned with (the subject)."

I already asked the same question on wordreference.com, but I would like to get more help if possible.(http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/the-angriest-someone-became-with-someone-concerned.3178342/#post-16083750)

Thank you in advance:)

  • 3
    Replace "concerned" with "had to do with". – Hot Licks May 13 '16 at 16:33
  • I expect this would have shown up in After Deadline, though sadly the blog has been suspended. – phoog May 13 '16 at 20:15
  • 1
    It might have helped if there were some clue as to how Clinton was connected with the Arab Spring. There is as much a logic problem here as a grammar one. Though I suppose this could be a rhetorical hook. I'm bound to read the next sentence just to figure out WTH this one is talking about. – Phil Sweet May 14 '16 at 4:50
  • Thank you for all the replies. @phoog I also thought of After Deadline! – Luxembourg May 14 '16 at 13:37

The angriest Obama became with Clinton /referred to/had to do with/was about/was related to/ the Arab Spring and the uprising in Egypt's Tahrir Square.

  • concern - To have to do with or relate to: an article that concerns the plight of homeless people.
  • 1
    Though the construction is slightly odd. The angriest exchange concerned ... might be more usual; but the nominal 'The angriest' etc is perhaps acceptable here. cf 'The angriest they were was during the Suez crisis.' – Edwin Ashworth May 13 '16 at 16:50
  • @EdwinAshworth I had a same question whether "the angriest" itself could be the subject, but your example makes sense. – Luxembourg May 14 '16 at 13:39
  • @Centaurus All of the verb you used makes sense. Thank you! – Luxembourg May 14 '16 at 13:40

Concerned isn't modifying anything, because it isn't an adjective here. It is the past tense of the verb concern.

The subject of that verb is Obama's anger. It's not all of his anger, of course, but just his anger towards Clinton, further limited to that part of his anger with the greatest magnitude (or perhaps the anger at that moment when its magnitude was greatest). That is, "the angriest."

The sentence isn't quite logical; it's trying to express a lot of ideas in a very few words, and it's easy to get tangled up in a situation like that. A more logical rewrite might therefore be:

Obama's greatest anger towards Clinton, Landler says, concerned the Arab Spring and the uprising in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

Perhaps one problem with that sentence is that great has been moving away from its original sense of large.

  • Yes, "anger," a noun, which otherwise is sorely lacking. +1 – user66965 May 13 '16 at 23:01
  • It would really be very helpful if those downvoting would add a comment saying why. – phoog May 14 '16 at 3:52
  • @phoog Thank you for the help! What I meant by "modifying" was actually exactly what you have explained, a past participle restricting the noun, but I guess I used a wrong term. – Luxembourg May 14 '16 at 13:50
  • @Luxembourg in this case it is not a past participle, it is the simple past. To be a past participle, it would need a helping verb. – phoog May 14 '16 at 16:16
  • @phoog Oops, you are right, because the big structure of the sentence goes like "The angriest concerned..." right? Everytime I see this sentence, I get confused. Thank you:) – Luxembourg May 15 '16 at 2:04

This really is not a grammatically correct sentence, though it is perhaps excused a little given that it is a description of what someone said, which is to say the NYT correctly reported a grammatically incorrect sentence by the original speaker.

You can argue that it is an elipsis:

The angriest [moment] Obama [had] with Clinton concerned...

But to argue this one mast also change the verb too, and I have not come up with a suitable ellipsis that would go with "became".

Nevertheless, this sentence is the intended meaning.

  • Indeed. The noun is implied. +1 – user66965 May 13 '16 at 19:36
  • I haven't read the article, but the question presents the passage as an indirect quotation. In that case, the grammar is the reporter's, not the speaker's. If the grammar is in fact the speaker's, it should have been a direct quotation. – phoog May 14 '16 at 16:11

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