While other members of the judiciary regularly attract the ire of victims and their families for a lenient approach to what can seem the most brutal and callous of crimes...

The above clause appeared in the editorial of a newspaper in Australia. I think the preposition "of" between "callous" and "crimes" is unnecessary and the insertion of the "of" changes the word "crimes" from noun to adverbial phrase (of crimes). Instead of "the most brutal and callous" modifying "crimes", "of crimes" as an adverbial phrase modifies "The most brutal and callous", which I find impossible and incorrect. Is my following rewrite correct?

... what can seem the most brutal and callous crimes...

  • Welcome to English Language and Usage. One question per post is the guideline of Stack Exchange. Please post the question about "seem" and "seem to be" in another question. I think the second question is a duplicate. You can try to search it using the search box.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:11
  • Please read the related question and quote this english.stackexchange.com/questions/92818/seem-or-seem-to-be when you ask the second question.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 11:13

1 Answer 1


In the construction ADJ-est of NOUNs you should parse ADJ-est as a nominal —The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language describes it as an adjective which has 'fused' with its head, the noun it modifies. The of NOUNs phrase designates the entire 'set' of NOUNs to which the nominal is compared. You may paraphrase this by extending these parsings:

The most brutal and callous crimes among all conceivable crimes

This is a fairly common construction, albeit rather literary, and is entirely acceptable.

  • 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' But still better than the guardian. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.