I have read this sentence. But, I can not understand the meaning of "one must of necessity".

To be a great leader and so always master of the situation, one must of necessity have been a great thinker in action.

Can any one explain it?

  • 1
    That's a poorly written sentence: "so always master of the situation"...must of necessity is also a redundancy. I think the writer is trying to say great leaders must be great thinkers. Ugh. I would look for better texts to read if you have the option.
    – lonstar
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 2:15
  • @lonstar That's appears to be a quote by somebody named James Thomas (which one?) on the subject of leadership. The complete quote reads: "To be a great leader and so always master of the situation, one must of necessity have been a great thinker in action. An eagle was never yet hatched from a goose's egg." Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 4:44
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    An emphatic -1. When asking questions like this (asking for the meaning of a sentence), it's imperative to tell where you found the sentence. Include a link, or at least include the whole paragraph of the source. Context is everything. I could ask what this sentence means: Lance shot the model. It can mean a range of things, depending on if Lance is a photographer, a gunman, or a nurse in an immunization clinic; depending on if the model refers to a woman wearing fashion, or a model of, say, a car, an airplane, a molecule, or the solar system.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 9:44
  • Yep, I gave that a little too cursory reading. Still not sure what to do with "thinker in action". And +1 to JR's comment.
    – lonstar
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 7:20

3 Answers 3


Contrary to a comment, OP's example is a perfectly reasonable sentence. It's attributed to James Thomas Fields, apparently first published 1900 by Modern eloquence (they thought it was okay!).

The component of necessity is just an intensifier of must - some might say it's tautological, but I see nothing wrong with that (or 15,000 more instances of "must of necessity" in Google Books).

The sentence says that a great leader is always master of the situation - that's why "so" links the two descriptions, because the first implies/entails/necessitates the second. But it also says you definitely can't be a great leader unless you've been a "great thinker in action".

  • How does the nuance change when "one must of necessity" is replaced with "one must out of necessity"? Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 4:48
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    @coleopterist: In some contexts, the extra word doesn't make any difference. Here, "of necessity" means something like "it's an inherent relationship that automatically holds true", whereas "out of necessity" invariably implies that someone is forced (often against their will) to do something. Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 4:51
  • That is well put. Cheers :) Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 4:56
  • @coleopterist: Cheers for your comment on the question! I knew it was a perfectly reasonable sentence (I only really answered to redress lonstar's questionable comment), but I was amused to see that the earliest citation I could find was "Modern Eloquence!" Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 5:09
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    lol! In that case, I will refrain from noting that he also appears to be the dedicatee of an insipid poem by Longfellow. This one: en.wikisource.org/wiki/Auf_Wiedersehen ;) Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 5:49

The term must can mean you are under an obligation imposed by some authority:

"You must go to school!"

"Sez who?"

In the alternative, it can mean that something need be done because of the intrinsic nature of the situation:

"To set an object in motion, you must introduce an outside force."

In the quoted sentence, of necessity suggests it is the latter type of must.


"One must of necessity..." = "It is necessary that one..."

  • Erm... you might as well say One must... = One has to of necessity... Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 2:46
  • @FumbleFingers fair enough; have updated to reflect the emphasis you describe (in your excellent already+1 answer) suggested by "of necessity."
    – JAM
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 2:50
  • +1 for yours too, now it's been changed to something that does meaningfully recast the original in a way that might be easier for a non-native speaker to grasp. Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 3:00

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