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I read a quote somewhere and it seemed flawed in its language and word usage.

Take a look at it:

"Trust a person to that extent, that he feels guilty to cheat you & care for a person to that extent, that he fears to lose you."

The letters in bold are the clauses that I found flawed in particular.

Shouldn't it be:

"Trust a person to the extent, that...."

At the same time I find "care for a person to that extent, that..." sounds alright.

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  • With no preceding context to justify "that" as a reference to something previously mentioned, this question can't really be answered. I find numerous examples of OP's exact sentence through Google, but they're all just that single line, with no other context. I therefore think it's Not Constructive. Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 19:53

3 Answers 3

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You are right that "to the extent" is a more conventional phrase in modern English. But "to that extent" is not wrong, and has a nuanced meaning.

Using "that" instead of "the" adds the suggestion that the writer is telling the reader that they already know about the thing being spoken of.

  • "You'll find a key on the mantelpiece" : I don't expect you to have known there was a key
  • "You'll find the key on the mantelpiece" : I think you would have expected there to be a key
  • "You'll find that key on the mantelpiece" : I think you already know the key I'm talking about

You might imagine me saying "You know the one", and expecting a nod.

Now in the sentence:

Trust a person to that extent, that he feels guilty to cheat you

The writer is gently suggesting that you already know what that extent is; he expects you to nod and think "Oh, that extent of trust."

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    Your explanation of the nuance is accurate, but you've missed the mark a bit in breaking down the quote: it can be split into two phrases: "Trust a person to that extent, that he feels guilty to cheat you." "Care for a person to that extent, that he fears to lose you." In both cases, "that he X" describes the extent -- the quote could be reworded as "Trust a person to the extent that he feels guilty to cheat you, and care for a person to the extent that he fears to lose you." Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 18:47
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    Your last sentence borders on nonsense, with its notions of "gentle suggestion" and "expects you to nod...". It applies to the following quote just as well as it does to the quote in the question: "Trust a person to dat extent, dat he feels guilty to cheat you.. . And . Luv a person to dat extent, dat he fears to loose u :)" - vishal verma Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 19:08
  • @justin: yes, I agree on the rewording. Thank you :) Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 13:30
  • @vishal: LOL.. maybe slim was just trying his best to xplain it as simply as possible even if the last sentence came out as funny. :) But I appreciate it. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 13:33
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That in the first case ("that extent") is used as a determiner, falling under the third entry in NOAD's definition:

3 [ usu. with clause ] used in singling out someone or something and ascribing a distinctive feature to them: I have always envied those people who make their own bread.

Notice that those is the plural form of that. The example in the citation could easily have read:

I have always envied that person who makes his own bread.

As noted, this is usually used to set up a clause describing a "distinctive feature," and in your case the clause is "that he feels guilty to cheat you."

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I think it would depend upon context. "that extent" implies to me that this is referring to old information. For example, the sentence before might have been "Once you find someone you love, you must trust them utterly." As you noted, the second usage sounds right without context because you mentioned extent earlier in the sentence and therefore you can refer to it.

Personally, I'd put a comma before the ampersand (well, and I'd spell out the "and") to clarify that it's not the person feeling guilt for caring. It becomes clear on a second reading, but in the first readthrough, it may require a minor bit of backtracking to make sense of the sentence.

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  • yes, I could have used 'and' instead of the ampersand but I was just quoting the sentence. You have a point in placing the comma before it. Thanks. The context is what makes all the difference and it might have a role to play here too. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 13:35

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