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The structure of this sentence is incorrect, but I'm not able to explain the reason why.

It is against company policy to use mobile phones by any person when in control of this vehicle.

I understand that the sign is obviously saying it's prohibited for any person to use a mobile phone, but the structure is completely wrong. It's the 'to use mobile phones by any person' part that's the issue, but could someone explain specifically why this is incorrect.

closed as off-topic by lbf, jimm101, Mitch, bookmanu, Rory Alsop Oct 2 '18 at 18:04

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  • "... when in control of this vehicle". Are you future proofing your policies for [the time] when self driving vehicles take control of us people? – Fr0zenFyr Sep 25 '18 at 17:49
  • I assume it's fine when you are not in control - ie when crashing... – Rory Alsop Oct 2 '18 at 18:04
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The subject of a to-infinitive (when not left implicit) is expressed by a for-phrase before the to, not by a by-phrase after the infinitive.

"It is against company policy to use mobile phones when in control of this vehicle" or “"It is against company policy for any person to use mobile phones when in control of this vehicle" would be correct.

I don’t know of any more theoretical explanation for why a by-phrase cannot be used this way in standard English.

  • Does it have anything to do with passive vs. active voice? – Laurel Sep 24 '18 at 21:50
  • @Laurel. Yes, I'd say it does. You can say: it is against company policy for any person to use mobile phones. Or: it is against complany policy for mobile phones to be used by any person. – S Conroy Sep 25 '18 at 1:01
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The sentence is certainly awkward, but I’m not sure it’s entirely wrong.  If anything, I believe that the use of “when” is the bigger problem.

You seem to be looking at “to use mobile phones by any person” as a group of words that needs to make sense.  If so, try looking at it this way:

It is against company policy to use mobile phones.

What?  For everybody?  All the time?

No, just when the person is in control of this vehicle.

OK, tell me the whole statement.

(It is against company policy to use mobile phones) by (any person when in control of this vehicle).



I believe that

It is against company policy to use mobile phones by any person who is in control of this vehicle.

works better.

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