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Thread: Sure/Certain

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    Default Sure/Certain

    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.

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    Default Re: Sure/Certain

    Quote Originally Posted by I'm With Stupid View Post
    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.
    This is a very interesting question. I'll take a shot at trying to provide an explanation.

    "It" cannot be sure that "it" will do anything. What is "it"?

    It is going to rain this week. - This is how "it" is typically used with verbs that describe a weather condition. There are weather verbs, which we can also think of as "impersonal verbs". There is no person or thing that can do these actions, yet English still requires a subject, so we use "it".

    It is sure to rain this week. - Here, I would say, we are simply using "it" in the same way we use "it" in "it's going to rain this week".

    Saying "it's sure to rain this week" is like saying "it is to rain this week." While I would consider "it's to rain this week" a rather unlikely sentence, it is correct.

    So once again, "it is sure that it will rain this week" is illogical because "it" cannot be sure that "it" will do anything. The first "it" in "it is sure it will rain this week" is not the typical use of "it" with such weather verbs or impersonal verbs. The second part, however, is how "it" is typically used: It will rain this week.

    It will rain this week. - represents the typical and correct usage of "it" with impersonal weather verbs.

    It is sure to rain this week. - represents the typical and correct usage of "it" with impersonal weather verbs

    It is sure that it will rain this week - The first "it" does not represent the typical use of "it" with impersonal weather verbs. What is "it" in the first clause? There's no way to justify it or identify it. However, we can justify "it" in the second clause "it will rain this week" because we know that we certainly use "it" with impersonal weather verbs. What is "it"? That's the question to ask.
    Last edited by PROESL; 03-Sep-2009 at 04:03.

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    Default Re: Sure/Certain

    Quote Originally Posted by I'm With Stupid View Post
    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.

    It is certain. - okay

    It is sure. - not okay

    It's a sure thing. - okay

    Is it certain that the show starts at 8:30? Yes, it is. - okay

    Is it sure that the show starts at 8:30? Yes, it's sure. - not okay

    Is it a sure thing that the show will start at 8:30? Yes, it's a sure thing. - okay

    I think the answer to your question has something to do with how we are able to use "sure" and "certain". But why is this so? Why is it possible to use "certain" in this way, but not "sure"?

    http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/certain_1

    COLLOCATIONS
    it is/seems certain (that) be/appear/look/seem certain to do something be certain of (doing) something it is not certain whether/how etc almost/virtually/practically certain fairly certain by no means certain/far from certain (=not definite) certain death


    http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/sure_1

    Such collocations exist with "certain" in the Longman Dictionary. However, no such collocations are shown with "sure" in the Longman Dictionary.
    Last edited by PROESL; 03-Sep-2009 at 05:00.

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    Default Re: Sure/Certain

    Quote Originally Posted by I'm With Stupid View Post
    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.
    It is not possible to make "it" the subject of "be", and perhaps other linking verbs, when "be" is followed by "sure".

    Let's try it.

    It seems sure. - not good.

    It seems certain. - good

    With certain, we are referring to the truth of something.

    With "sure", we are asking for an individual's certainty.

    I'm sure. - okay - I can tell you that I'm sure.

    It is sure. - not okay - "It" can't tell you that it is sure. What is "it"?

    It is sure to be interesting. - okay

    It is sure that it is going to be interesting. - not okay

    It is certain that it is going to be interesting. - okay?

    I'm certain. - okay - I can tell you I'm certain about something.

    It is certain. - okay - In a given context, "it" in "it is certain" can refer to something. The impersonal "it" satisfies our requirement for what we can recognize as a subject in English, impersonal or otherwise.

    It is certain that the show will start at 8:30. - What is certain is what it is. What is it? It is the schedule. The schedule can be certain, but the schedule can't be sure.

    Is the schedule certain? Is the schedule accurate? Is the schedule true?

    Is the schedule sure? * The schedule is an "it", and the schedule can't be sure. People can be sure, but not schedules. However, "schedules" can be certain.

    The schedule is sure to change. - okay Therefore, this is okay, "it is sure to change". We know that "it" is the schedule, and "it" can "change".

    It is sure. - If we don't know what "it" is, then this sentence seems rather strange.

    It is certain. - Does this sentence seem strange? Not if we consider that something certain is something that is true: It's true. - Anything can be true, but not "anything" can be sure.

    Is this Google search revealing of anything?

    "it is certain that it is going to" - Google Search=

    Results 1 - 10 of about 2,400,000 for "it is certain that it is going to".

    "it is sure that it is going to" - Google Search=

    Results 1 - 7 of 7 for "it is sure that it is going to".


    Now the question becomes this: In which situations is it not acceptable to give "it" subject status?

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    Default Re: Sure/Certain

    Quote Originally Posted by I'm With Stupid View Post
    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.
    I'd say we have a rather fine distinction between two words that I had not taken notice of before.

    Fascinating.

    Spock out.

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    Default Re: Sure/Certain

    Quote Originally Posted by I'm With Stupid View Post
    Just a quick question on the difference between sure and certain. I need to know what grammatical rule makes one acceptable when the other isn't.

    So for example,

    It's certain it will rain this week.
    It's sure it will rain this week.
    I'm certain it will rain this week.
    I'm sure it will rain this week.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can?

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week.
    Okay, now that I've worked the whole thing out, I'm ready, I think, for the short answer.

    I think I'm right in thinking that sure cannot be used with an impersonal subject, whereas certain can? <<

    Yes, I would say you are correct. I would say this is so because "certain" can mean that something is true, and we don't have to identify this "something". Whatever it is - this something - "it" can be impersonal.

    It simply doesn't work this way with "sure". Only a person can be sure of something. "It" can't be sure of anything, unless we are certain, in some way, that "it" refers to "something", which may be impersonal, but we have to know what "it" is for "it" to be an acceptable subject with "sure" as a predicate adjective. The word "certain", however, simply meaning "true", easily functions as a predicate adjective even when we are not really sure or do not know what "it" is: it is certain, I would say, means it is true.

    __________________________________________________ _______

    And if so, I have a follow up question. Why does replacing "it will" with "to" in this sentence make it acceptable to use sure again?

    It's sure to rain this week. << This is like saying "it is going to rain", and in this way "it" is an acceptable subject because we know that "it" certainly refers to the weather - "rain" is an impersonal verb. We cannot identify anything that rains, so we must use "it" in order to satisfy the requirement that all verbs have grammatical subjects in English, not simply "understood" subjects, as is the case in some other languages.

    It is to rain this week. - It is going to rain this week. impersonal weather verb

    It is sure going to rain this week. I just heard the forecast. - impersonal weather verb

    It is sure to rain this week. - (The sentence with be going to is more likely, I think.) - impersonal weather verb

    What do you think?

    "it's sure going to" - Google Search=

    Results 1 - 10 of about 444,000 for "it's sure going to".

    "it's sure to" - Google Search=

    Results 1 - 10 of about 1,170,000 for "it's sure to

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