meaning of “argued to be”

"you already knew" vs. "you've already known" says

That would be completely natural, and could probably be argued to be more correct – but in practice it’s unnecessary here.

What’s the meaning of “argued to be”?

I googled it but got nothing explanation.

I also went through American Heritage Dictionary

v.tr.
1. To put forth reasons for or against; debate: "It is time to stop arguing tax-rate reductions and to enact them" (Paul Craig Roberts).
2. To attempt to prove by reasoning; maintain or contend: The speaker argued that more immigrants should be admitted to the country.
3. To give evidence of; indicate: "Similarities cannot always be used to argue descent" (Isaac Asimov).
4. To persuade or influence (another), as by presenting reasons: argued the clerk into lowering the price.
v.intr.
1. To put forth reasons for or against something: argued for dismissal of the case; argued against an immediate counterattack.
2. To engage in a quarrel; dispute: We need to stop arguing and engage in constructive dialogue.

None of them uses “argue” that way. Could someone help with it?

Answer

I’m sorry for the confusion (the example phrase comes straight from an answer I gave in the linked article). Unfortunately, the answer to your question is somewhat complicated. Before I get to explaining it, I’m just going to give you a series of example sentences that follow the same kind of pattern that is being used in the phrase you’re asking about – because I think seeing a number of examples with a similar structure will help explain things much better than the very long explanation that follows it.

I’m going to provide these examples again later, but here are other ways to say the same thing:

  • Someone could argue that this example is more correct
  • It could be argued that this example is more correct
  • This example could be argued to be more correct

And here are some additional examples of the same type of rewording, to help you get a better sense of it.

  • Some people say that wealth brings happiness
  • It is said that wealth brings happiness
  • Wealth is said to bring happiness
  • All the people will believe that King Roger has died
  • It will be believed that King Roger has died
  • King Roger will be believed to have died
  • Mr. Johnson often remarked that relaxing here eased his pain
  • It was often remarked that relaxing here eased Mr. Johnson’s pain
  • Relaxing here was often remarked to have eased Mr. Johnson’s pain

(Note: the last set of examples are a little awkward, because in all cases we must refer to Mr. Johnson for clarity, and the first sentence is a much better way to express that than the other two – I provided it mainly to show how the grammar works with a past-tense example.)


And now the explanation.

The applicable definition from your dictionary, is v.tr. number 2: The speaker argued that more immigrants should be admitted to the country is the example sentence closest to the sense in which I used the word. Other ways to say the same thing include:

  1. Someone could argue that this example is more correct
  2. Someone could make the argument that this example is more correct
  3. The argument could be made that this example is more correct
  4. It could be argued that this example is more correct

In all of these new versions, I’m using the word “that”, which makes it a little more clear that it’s the same sense as definition #2 from your dictionary entry. #4 is the closest to what I said, because it’s using the same “argue” verb (as opposed to #2 and #3 which use the noun “argument” to express the same thing), and because it’s using the verb “argue” in a passive tense.

The reason why … could be argued to be is a correct phrase, is a quirk of how the passive tense can be used in English.

An example of active tense is I ate the apple; an example of passive tense is The apple was eaten. The same thing is being said in both sentences, except that in the passive example, we don’t know who has eaten the apple, only that the apple has been eaten (by someone, or something). There is also a grammatical difference in that I was the subject of the active-tense example, but the apple is the grammatical subject in the passive-tense one.

As I said before, my example #4 is also passive tense, just the same as the original version I wrote. Let’s look at those two passive phrases again:

  • It could be argued that this example is more correct
  • This example could be argued to be more correct (similar to my original)

What is the difference between these two versions? There is no difference in meaning, only in the grammar involved.

In the It could be argued example, the subject of the sentence is it. What does the it refer to? It refers forward to that this example is more correct, because that is the thing that could be argued.

In the similar to my original version, the subject of the sentence is this example. It has pulled the subject this example out of the phrase this example is more correct, and dropped it as the subject of the larger sentence. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do with passive-tense phrases, but when we do so, we need to change the rest of that phrase, the is more correct, to to be more correct. We have to use the infinitive to be instead of is, because is should have a subject before it. And the that also gets dropped. So:

It could be argued that this example is more correct

becomes

This example could be argued to be more correct

The reason why it felt more natural (to me) to use the version that I used, is because that phrase was conjoined to another phrase that was already using This example as its subject. Here’s the original sentence again (I’ve inserted some extra things in brackets, to make it clearer what I was able to leave out from the sentence):

That [example] would be completely natural, and [that example] could probably be argued to be more correct – but in practice it’s unnecessary here.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : PutBere , Answer Author : Micah Cowan

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