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Now this relaxation of the mind from work consists on playful words or deeds. Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man to have recourse to such things at times.

—Thomas Aquinas

Is the bold phrase an idiom of the old times? Because I think we will use He/She instead of it for "a wise man", if we like to rephrase it today: He who has recourse to such things, becomes a wise man.

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  • It is a current phrase, not one of previous times.
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 19, 2023 at 9:11
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is based on an erroneous premise that has now been clarified by an answer.
    – Anton
    Nov 19, 2023 at 14:12
  • The example is off but the headline question holds some interest. Actual examples include A Midsummer Night's Dream 2.1.172 ("The juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, / Will make or man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees") and the much-memed line from The Silence of the Lambs, "It rubs the lotion on its skin." Nov 19, 2023 at 15:07
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    As you see, the verb becomes is not used as "turns into," but suits. Nov 19, 2023 at 17:08
  • @Anton I CV-d as well as I believe the it-cleft is in itself of ELL standard, and the trickier aspects have been covered here before. I don't know who re-opens questions / squashes CVs without any explanation. Nov 22, 2023 at 14:10

2 Answers 2

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No. The sense of the passage is not "He/she becomes a wise and virtuous man" (?).

It refers to having recourse to such things (relaxation from work), which Aquinas says is becoming (definition 2 here) to a wise person.

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  • Actually it is not a referring pronoun here, it's a meaningless dummy used to fill the subject slot in such extraposition constructions. See here: Expletive pronouns in subcategorised positions if you would like a high-faulting explanation of why this must be the case. Nov 22, 2023 at 13:50
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"It" is here the neutral pronoun; it is used in a grammatical turn called "extraposition of a subject clause" (Quirk, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, § 2.59 Grammatical highlighting).

The role of the anticipatory pronoun "it" […] is essentially a structural one in the sense that it carries virtually no information in itself, but merely supplies the structural requirement for an initial subject. (Its semantic function, in so far as it has one, is merely to signal that the content of the subject is expressed in a later position in the same sentence.) A somewhat parallel role is performed by the introductory word "there" in EXISTENTIAL sentences.

The usual form is as follows, where "to have recourse to such things at times" is the subject clause.

  • Therefore, to have recourse to such things at times becomes a wise and virtuous man.

(OALD) become verb [transitive, no passive] (not used in the progressive tenses)
become somebody (formal) to be suitable for somebody

• Such behaviour did not become her.

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  • I would have thought "It is becoming ..." might be seen as progressive, though perhaps other parsing is possible
    – Henry
    Nov 19, 2023 at 11:44
  • This is another term for (or type of) "dummy it", right?
    – Laurel
    Nov 22, 2023 at 13:54
  • @Laurel That is a usable term; see for instance the reference given by Araucaria-Him above, and search for "dummy". (lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/Postal-Pullum88.pdf)
    – LPH
    Nov 22, 2023 at 14:06

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