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Friday, February 20, 2009

Criminal Sentence 173: Misplaced Prepositional Phrase

This sentence is from an excellent book I'm reading. The "he" in the sentence is a man who has assaulted a woman and is worried she might tell someone about the assault:

"He could not help but be concerned that she might have discussed what had happened with some outsider."

This sentence suggests that something happened with "some outsider" instead of with the "he" of this sentence. The phrase we're concerned about is "with some outsider." It goes with "discussed," not "happened."

So, this sentence should read like this:

"He could not help but be concerned that she might have discussed with some outsider what had happened."

I wrote about the same error in this post.


reyespoint said...

Interestingly, it's your sentence that, while grammatically correct, is the more uncomfortable for me to read. I understood who the "he" was referencing in the first sentence without the change. It's much clearer in your sentence, but it has no cadence, which may have been why the other chose to phrase it the way he/she did.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

I definitely agree with you that the corrected sentence sounds a bit off, but I suppose I favor grammatical over lyrical. Interestingly, this book was translated from Swedish, so I am wondering if the original had this phrasing or if the translator introduced this error. Anyway, I don't think you should write grammatical but stilted sentences, so if you write a grammatical sentence that sounds off, you should consider rewording it or breaking it into two sentences.
Thanks for your excellent comment.

reyespoint said...

Perhaps the perfect choice is the lyrically grammatical sentence.

I'll try to aspire to that.

Thanks for a great site. I enjoy it every day.