"You haven't heard of Mark Twain? He is ______________ one of the most important American writers."
c. saying the
d. said to be
I have yet to see a student run into this construction and nail it. Usually they gravitate toward the distractor, which is anything that yields "is VERB-ing," but what they don't realize is that this is a participial adjective construction like the following:
- This medicine is taken for diabetes.
- The flowers weren't intended for you.
- The poem wasn't written about WWII.
I don't know whether to give the test-designers kudos or to curse them for their devious grammatical trickery. At times I see constructions on these tests that seem so exceptionally rare that I question whether there is value in teaching them. In case you're curious, if you search the COCA for
[vb*] [v?n*] to *
you will generate the following list:
At the same time, I have to acknowledge that the corpus really is just a sampling (albeit a very BIG sampling) of American English usage. For example, I was talking to my brother about our Thanksgiving plans, and he was thinking of sharing a ride with my sisters:
"When are they leaving?"
"They said 4:30."
"Oh. I'll have already been working two hours by then." (i.e. he starts work at 2:30)
"Oh shoot. Well maybe we can work something else out."
My brother is not an English major, yet what he is saying is very linguistically complex, and there was nothing strange or unusual about the context. However, when I searched the corpus for this construction, no results came back. In other words, the corpus may not catch constructions that are still used in everyday situations. I remember talking to my old professor about grammar forms that were not easily classified. He said there are some grammatical theories that contend there are thousands of clause types (a fact which is "terrifying" for students, as he put it), and some of these myriad constructions are restricted to extremely specific contexts (considering the conversation I had with my brother--when else would you use the future present perfect continuous?).
I always feel like this is a cop out answer, but in addition to focused study, I really think it's important to read a lot AND talk to a lot of people AND watch a lot of movies/television AND listen to the radio in the second language on a daily basis, and hopefully, as a result, these things will come in through osmosis.
At least that's the hope.