3 Examples of Expletives to Be Expunged

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following sentences, an expletive (a form of “there is” or “it is”) inhibits an active, concise sentence construction, and other wording is passive and/or more verbose than necessary. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates the solution.

1. There have been several immediate actions that the agency has taken.

To produce a more concise sentence, find the buried subject (“the agency”) and move it to the head of the sentence, then omit the expletive and the attendant verb or verb phrase (and the now-superfluous that): “The agency has taken several immediate actions.”

2. For each initiative, there will be a number of processes that need to change, as well as new processes that may need to be created.

Here, because of the modifying introductory phrase, the expletive is not so obtrusive, and in this case, the syntax is not doubly passive—the subject immediately follows the expletive, rather than being twice removed, as in the previous example. Nevertheless, the sentence is improved by beginning the main clause with the subject rather than the expletive; also, replace one “need to” or the other with must to avoid repetition: “For each initiative, a number of processes must change and new processes need to be created.”

3. While each bankruptcy case is unique, there are standard requirements that must be met by all creditors.

Again, beginning the main clause with a substantial subject rather than an expletive will render the sentence more concise: “While each bankruptcy case is unique, standard requirements must be met by all creditors.” Additionally, however, note that passive sentence construction disguises the true subject: “While each bankruptcy case is unique, all creditors must meet standard requirements.”


3 Responses to “3 Examples of Expletives to Be Expunged”

  • Dale A. Wood

    You are so right, Venqax — &^(_$%** expletives!
    President Nixon spoke a lot about the offspring of female dogs, and other such misbegotten creatures.
    By the way, in German, “Bastard” is a perfectly respectable word, and it means nothing more than “hybrid” in English. Yes, a hybrid, like a mule, a “tigon” or “liger” (half tiger and half lion), triticale, or hybrid corn.
    Someone once told me that a fruit called the “nectarine” is a hybrid of the tangerine with the plum, but I don’t think that those are closely enough related to interbreed.

  • venqax

    Please use “expletive” in the modern sense of the word.

    What the &^(_$%** is that supposed to mean?

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Expletive deleted!” is all through the transcripts of the audio tapes that President Nixon made in his office in the White House!
    Please use “expletive” in the modern sense of the word.

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