9

Example

He was pressured by the FBI to inform against his own friend.

This means that the FBI pressured him, AND he ACTUALLY DID inform against his own friend. Right?

Then, what do you say if you don't want to refer to the part of whether he did actually inform his own friend or not?

In another words, what do you say only

The FBI pressured him and said to him 'You'd better tell us about your friends.'

Starting with "He was pressured by the FBI..." without referring to whether he actually did so or not.

4
  • 14
    The initial premise is incorrect. He was pressured. It does not follow that he informed. Your question needs more clarity.
    – Anton
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 6:54
  • 6
    Your original example might imply that he did inform, but does not entail this. Consider "He was pressured by the FBI to inform against his own friend, but refused to do so." Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 12:20
  • 9
    as an addendum to @theawesomeatom 's answer pointing out that the initial sentence has the meaning you want, in order for the first sentence to imply that he did give in, it would have to be changed to something like "He was pressured by the FBI into informing on his own friend" (informing on sounds more idiomatic to me than informing against, but that change is not especially important here, it's the shift from "to" to "into" that adds the implication that he gave in)
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 13:26
  • I know that pressure has been verbed but I tend to feel that press works better.
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 12:53

3 Answers 3

50

Actually, your example means what you want to say! "He was pressured by the FBI to inform against his own friend," doesn't tell us whether on not he folded to the FBI's pressure.

1
  • +1 The most valuable part of this answer is the phrase "whether or not." The sentence does not tell us yes or no. It tells us pressure was brought to bear and why it was brought to bear, but it does not tell us anything about the outcome.
    – JBH
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 3:21
18

As mentioned by TheAwesomeAtom, saying "He was pressured by the FBI to inform against his own friend" does not indicate he did inform against his friend.

However, to my ears, the sentence "The FBI pressured him to inform against his own friend" is even more ambiguous and perhaps better for your use.

If you wish to indicate he did inform, you could say "He was pressured by the FBI into informing against his own friend."

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  • 8
    IMO passive vs. active voice has no impact on the ambiguousness of the sentence. You make a great point about preposition choice making a big impact on meaning though. You could also indicate that he did inform using an active voice: "The FBI pressured him into informing against his own friend". Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 19:47
4

While I agree with the other answer that the statement doesn't really say that the pressure was successful, you could make it clearer by saying

The police tried to pressure him to inform against his friend.

"tried" without further qualification implies that they didn't succeed.

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  • 1
    No, if they tried to pressure him, they failed even in that, let alone getting the information.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 13:18
  • What's the difference between "didn't succeed" and "failed"?
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 17:08
  • I believe what Andrew was getting at is that the "tried" applies to pressuring the guy, not to did he inform or not. I mean, maybe the reason the FBI failed at the pressuring was that the guy caved at the first frown from the receptionist.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 17:41
  • 3
    @Marthaª I think that's overly pedantic. Most would consider the interrogation itself to be pressure, so they succeeded at putting pressure on him. What matters is whether the pressure achieved the desired result.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 17:45
  • @Barmar I agree that if the slightest pressure worked, that was still pressuring. But, to me one can fail to find anything that caused concern on the part of the target, and hence fail to apply pressure. I would suggest we still need into - the police tried to pressure him into informing against his friend.
    – Bruce
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 3:25

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