In scientific articles I often read the phrase:

We assume the reader to have [some basic knowledge in] ...

A simple google search of it reveals tons of examples. But, strictly, it sound a little bit odd, or ungrammatical? Should it not rather be

We assume the reader has some basic knowledge


We assume that the reader has some [...]?

Or why is the original form perfectly fine?

  • Macmillan includes this usage: assume to believe that something is true, even though no one has told you or even though you have no proof... assume someone/something to be/do[/have/be able to do/ ...] something: I have always assumed her to be British. May 8, 2020 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


It's more formal because it's an older grammatical form. It hasn't completely died out yet—rather, it's been relegated to formal usage. But your suggested alternative we assume the reader has ... can be used in even the most formal writing today (although I'm not sure this was the case in 1850).

Consider this Ngram

In the first half of the 19th century, the most common expression was suppose him to be, but now the most common expression is suppose he is. The Ngram for assume is similar, but is unfortunately complicated by the fact that the use of assume meaning suppose was much less common in the 19th century. See Ngram. But I assume that the grammar of assume and suppose behaved similarly.

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