1

As an engineering-type fellow, I was thinking about this article about a drug that replaces sleep.

It occurred to me that I could frame it in two ways:

  • Scientists allegedly created a drug that replaces sleep.

or

  • Scientists created a drug that allegedly replaces sleep.

There are obvious arguments for both of these statements being correct - saying someone allegedly created a drug with certain properties or that they created a drug and it allegedly happens to have certain properties seems to ultimately have the bottom line of there being the possibility of replacing sleep.

But which sounds better? Which ... feels more right? Are the phrasings interchangeable, or could an argument be made that one or the other is in some way, tangibly or otherwise, "better"?

5
  • According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug, a drug is "any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function." This would seem to include anything and everything. If the scientists are alleged to have created a drug, they probably did.
    – emory
    Aug 16 '12 at 23:42
  • Oh, I totally agree that it's certainly real and almost certainly exactly as cool as they promise. I was asking a phrasing question.
    – rsegal
    Aug 17 '12 at 0:47
  • If you have no doubts then wouldn't the best wording be "Scientists created a drug that replaces sleep".
    – emory
    Aug 17 '12 at 1:49
  • It prompted something almost describable as a philosophical question.
    – rsegal
    Aug 17 '12 at 1:59
  • They are not the same, do not mean the same, and never be mistaken one for the other. "As an engineering-type fellow," it would be a major drawback to be unable to distinguish between them. Down voting the Q, not a vote to close, though.
    – Kris
    Aug 17 '12 at 11:17
10

The two phrasings are not interchangeable, because they have different meanings.

Scientists allegedly created a drug that replaces sleep

This means that it's suspected that scientists created a drug. We aren't told for certain that a drug was created, but if the drug was created, it “replaces sleep”.

Scientists created a drug that allegedly replaces sleep

This means that scientists definitely created a drug, and it's suspected that it “replaces sleep”. But it might not do so.

2
  • While the paths are different, would you regard the state of the solution as comparable? Would you consider "allegedly a drug exists that does X" and "a drug exists that allegedly does X" to mean X is just as likely/extant in both circumstances?
    – rsegal
    Aug 17 '12 at 2:00
  • 2
    I think I would not consider them equally likely. Because in the first case it requires two probabilities to be multiplied- the probability that the drug was created times the probability that it does what they say, whereas in the second case the probability that it was created is 1 and so only the probability that it does what it says is relevant.
    – Jim
    Aug 17 '12 at 2:41
4

One is not intrinsically better than the other: the sentences mean substantially different things.

In the first, scientists are said to have created a drug; in the second, it is known that they did create a drug.

4

They have two completely different meanings, yet are both grammatically correct.

Scientists allegedly created a drug that replaces sleep.

This sentence states that that the scientists creating the drug is alleged. We don't know for sure that they made it.

Scientists created a drug that allegedly replaces sleep.

This sentence states that that the drug replaces sleep is alleged. Here, we don't know what it does, besides what were told.

The difference is that in the first sentence, allegedly modifies created. In the second, allegedly modifies replaces.

Deciding which to use depends on what you want to say. The both are perfectly natural; i.e., neither is "better".

2
  • They come to the same thing, though! In one, you're alleging they made a drug with certain properties, and in the other, you're claiming they made a drug and then alleging that it has those certain properties.
    – rsegal
    Aug 16 '12 at 21:37
  • 1
    No, your emphasis on the first is wrong. In one, you're alleging they made a drug with certain properties, and in the other, you're claiming they made a drug and then alleging that it has those certain properties. Aug 16 '12 at 21:38

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