Over on another network site, a helpful user corrected the grammar of a post of mine.

The answer now says

I believe it's valid.

where I originally wrote

I believe it valid.

Is the original sentence gramamatically (or at least idiomatically) correct or do I absolutely need a form of 'to be' here? (What's more, is 'to be' a copula or an auxiliary verb if used like this?)

I am quite certain that I have seen sentences like the original one in the past, but I am uncertain where. Given that I am frequently exposed to the somewhat made-up English of authors in the fields of sci-fi and fantasy, I might have fallen into a trap here.

Edit: I don't doubt that the correction is valid and enhances readability.

  • Thank you for the edit, that's so understanding of you. I thought I pissed you off. – Gigili Jul 4 '12 at 11:59
  • Absolutely not, I only want to improve my command of the English language. Given the amount of changes you and @Em1 made, I direly need to improve. – Urs Reupke Jul 4 '12 at 12:08
  • "To be, or not to be. That is the true question." Sorry I just felt that I had to. Not a helpful comment at all @@ – Sephallia Jul 4 '12 at 14:46
  • possible duplicate of I think him to be about 50 or I think he is about 50?, although in that one nobody mentions "I think him about 50" (which is certainly valid so far as I'm concerned, albeit dated/formal). – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '12 at 17:49

Believe is a verb that can take three different types of Object Complement.

It can take a tensed Embedded Question complement:

  • He believes [what you tell him].

It can take a tensed That-clause complement:

  • He believes [that [the moon is made of white cheese]].

And it can take an Infinitive complement, with B-Raising:

  • He believes [her to be the best shotputter in Indiana].

The only kind it doesn't take is the Gerund complement; this is ungrammatical:

  • *He believes Shakespeare writing Canterbury Tales

The two different sentences in the original question simply have different complement types. Both are grammatical, both mean the same thing, and either will get to the same place, though by a slightly different route. No worries, eh?

I believe it's valid has a That-complement. The complementizer that (which is optional here because it's an object complement) has been removed. Put it back (and uncontract the contraction while you're at it) and you get I believe that it is valid, which is totally unexceptionable, though a bit stuffy for online discussion. Which is why it gets shortened.

I believe it valid has an Infinitive complement. The original infinitive complementizer to and the auxiliary infinitive be have been deleted by the common rule of To Be-Deletion, leaving only the Raised subject it and the predicate adjective valid, the guts of the sentence, with all the auxiliaries stripped away. Put them back and you get I believe it to be valid, which is equally unexceptionable.

Deletions are common; check for empty slots. But you have to know what slots there are.

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    While Barry, Peter and FumbleFingers got there first, this answer gives me the best impression of the lay of the land. Thanks to all. – Urs Reupke Jul 4 '12 at 15:20

I believe it's valid and I believe it valid use different constructions. The first consists of two clauses, I believe and it's valid. The second consists of only one clause in which I is the subject, believe the verb, it the object and valid the object predicative, or complement.

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The question is whether "believe" is a verb which can take an object and an object complement. It can. Searching for "I believe him honest" in Google books yields 128 results, many of them fairly recent, while "I believe he is honest" yields 228 and "I believe he's honest" yields 44. If a large number of English speakers didn't consider "I believe him honest" grammatical, the numbers would not be so close.

NOTE: edited to give the correct names to the parts of speech "him" and "honest", as Barry pointed out in his answer.

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  • So you agree with Barry? – Urs Reupke Jul 4 '12 at 14:18
  • I agree with Barry; I didn't notice his answer until I'd posted mine. (And his answer was earlier and used the correct term "object complement" or "object predicative", while I said "object", which was wrong). – Peter Shor Jul 4 '12 at 14:43

The correction is valid.

The other examples where you might have seen similar usage as yours could be:

  1. Consider it done.
  2. I believe it went. etc
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    These are not similar usage. Here "valid" is an adjective, and "done" and "went" are past participles. – Peter Shor Jul 4 '12 at 12:41

OP is correct that idiomatically we do sometimes omit the verb in such constructions, but it usually has somewhat formal overtones. That's very much the case in OP's specific example using the verb "to think".

There are a related constructions using different verbs where that "formal, starchy" element doesn't seem very noticeable...

"I find that disgusting". (less likely with think)

"I want the washing-up done before I get back". (less likely with expect)

...but personally I wouldn't recommend this style to non-native speakers. Those two examples above are perfectly unremarkable - but they're the exception, not the rule.

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  • So you're saying that the original version "I believe it valid" is correct? – Gigili Jul 4 '12 at 12:29
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    @Gigili: It's certainly not "manifestly invalid", but I wouldn't normally use OP's specific text myself. It's formal/archaic/stilted. – FumbleFingers Jul 4 '12 at 14:48

Both are fine. The second one is more archaic, probably not in colloquial English.

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  • What is wrong with this answer?@whoever downvoted it? – JamesHH Jul 12 '12 at 21:01
  • I'm not the down voter, but you could take your time to actually write full words and sentences, and capitalise properly. Also your answer adds nothing. Other answers are far better. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 13 '12 at 9:55
  • sometimes it's good to be concise in an answer. I wasn't aware that this site disapproved of abbreviating words but I'll avoid doing so in future. – JamesHH Jul 13 '12 at 16:37

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