Grandma's Tales

October 31, 2006

Grammar 11 – You can’t be rested and assured

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:15 pm

And when the tender is floated by India’s largest public sector telecom firm, and is worth billions of dollars, you can be rest assured that the discordant decibel levels will be much louder and shriller. – Outlook, October 23

The discordant note in this well-crafted sentence unfortunately is the phrase “can be rest assured”. I’ve heard people say that, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in print. And I’m wondering how it got past the editor. It just goes to confirm my suspicion that we use words and phrases without really internalising the meaning. Is it possible the writer/editor is just repeating a cliché?

What the writer wants to say is fairly clear. A telecom contract has been awarded by the government. The contract is worth billions of dollars. The group that grabbed the contract will be partying hard while the ones who lost aren’t going to sit back and watch. The writer wants to tell us that the stakes are high and the complaints will be louder than usual. Fine.

The writer could have simply said, “…you can be sure that the discordant decibel levels…etc. Instead he/she goes for a cliché and slips. The phrase he wants is quite simple. He wants to tell the reader to rest (as in “take rest”) feeling assured that the decibel levels of the carping of those left out would be high.

What he should be saying is “you can rest, assured that the discordant decibel level …etc.” It is the same as “you can walk, assured that there are no street dogs” or “you can sleep assured that there are no burglars here“. You can rest assured the decibel levels will be high. It is an expression that means “it is bound to happen”.
The problem is we don’t use a comma to separate the “rest” and “assured”. That is because the word “rest” does the work of the helping verb “be”. Write it this way: Be assured that the decibel levels will be high. Perfect, isn’t it?

The word “rest” in the sentence is a verb. If you choose the “can be” form (passive voice), you need to write “can be rested” just as you would write “can be done”, “can be figured out”, “can be formatted” … But that won’t work here. You can’t say “can be rested assured”, can you? Sorry, “can be rest assured” does not exist. It is “you can rest assured”, no question about that.

Aside: Is there a gene that specialises in attacking mistakes in print? You can rest assured there is. And I have it.



  1. “I can be able to do it” is another one that I have seen school kids (and teenagers) use – but is a more blatant violation that it won’t find print (or so I hope!).

    I am amazed that this one you pointed out made it past the editors though.

    Comment by swami — November 1, 2006 @ 4:11 am | Reply

  2. On the dot, swami. I’ve heard this expression too. When it comes to learning a language, blessed are those who have people around correcting their mistakes 🙂

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — November 1, 2006 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  3. And I have heard this one more than once – Please update to boss that customer is delighted.

    Comment by Rajesh Kumar — November 1, 2006 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

  4. And what does the boss say? “I’m updated, thank you?”

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — November 1, 2006 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  5. i love this site 🙂

    Comment by Annette B. — November 8, 2006 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  6. Hi Annette B.
    Thanks you like it. Do put in your questions in any.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — November 8, 2006 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

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