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Sounds wrong but I bet it's right

Switch Blayde

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. The girl snatched her brother's hand and ran to their mother who clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads, smothering their faces in her breasts.


Is there anything in the above that sounds grammatically wrong?

Daler

@Switch Blayde

Just a little hard to follow as a lot of characters are referenced. Had to read it a couple times to get it but might be that it's a paragraph out of context. Verb tense and pov seem consistent.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Remus2

@Switch Blayde

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. The girl snatched her brother's hand and ran to their mother who clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads, smothering their faces in her breasts.


Depending upon the mother, brother, or girl being the object, 'who' might be 'whom'. That sentence reads a bit jumbled up to me, but that's just my opinion.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Daler

Had to read it a couple times


That's why I prefer short sentences.

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

It might read better as:

The girl snatched her brother's hand, and pulling him after her, she ran to their mother. While cupping the back of their heads, the mother pulled their faces into her breasts.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

The girl snatched her brother's hand and ran to their mother who clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads, smothering their faces in her breasts.


Technical nit:
'their mother' identifies uniquely, so the 'who' introduces a nonessential relative clause and requires a preceding comma.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

I changed it around based on the comments:

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. Now free, the girl snatched her brother's hand and bolted to their mother. Bella clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads, smothering their faces in her breasts.


But that wasn't what I was addressing. I guess it sounded wrong to only me. It was "the back of their heads" vs "the backs of their heads."

Replies:   Daler
Daler

@Switch Blayde

Interesting puzzle. Had to to read it twice again. Thing that's getting me is it sounds like only the girl is running but it seems they both are.

Alternatively might read "Now free, the girl snatches her brother's hand and together they bolt straight for their mother. Bella received them with open arms, cupping the back of their heads, pulling their faces into her breast." Or something like that...

Switch Blayde

@Daler

Now free, the girl snatches her brother's hand and together they bolt straight for their mother.


I imagined the girl pulling/dragging her brother as she ran to her mother. But when I added that piece it got cumbersome so I left it to the reader to see it that way or not.

But, again, it was the singular "back" of the heads that I wanted to write "backs." But I'm sure "back" is correct. And now that no one countered with "backs," I'm even more sure of it.

Daler

@Switch Blayde

Haha. Sounds like conclusive evidence.

Ross at Play

@Remus2

Depending upon the mother, brother, or girl being the object, 'who' might be 'whom'.

I have some opinions on that based on my interpretation of CMOS. I cannot guarantee I understand what they mean correctly.

The antecedent of 'who' is definitely the mother.

5.57 Antecedent of relative pronouns - Usually a relative pronoun's antecedent is a noun or pronoun in the independent clause on which the relative clause depends. For clarity it should immediately precede the pronoun


The case of the relative pronoun, 'who' or 'whom', depends on whether the pronouns antecedent is the subject or object of the following verb. If 'whom' is needed there must be a subject between it and that verb. For example, I think this is technically correct: "... ran to their mother whom they clutched in their arms." It may be better to rewrite a sentence than use 'whom' correctly.

5.56 Positional nuances with relative pronouns - A relative pronoun is in the nominative case when no subject comes between it and the verb
the professor who lectured was brilliant
he whom I called is no longer there


5.55 Case with relative pronoun - A personal pronoun does not govern the case of a relative pronoun. Hence, an objective pronoun such as me may be the antecedent of of the nominative pronoun who.
She was referring to me, who never graduated from college.
A construction formed this way sounds increasingly archaic or (to the nonliterary) incorrect ... the best course may be ... to find a different construction.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Is there anything in the above that sounds grammatically wrong?

It is not grammatically wrong, but the last comma makes it sound dubious to me. I'd replace that with 'and'.

... who clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads and smothering their faces in her breasts.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Technical nit:
'their mother' identifies uniquely, so the 'who' introduces a nonessential relative clause and requires a preceding comma.

You are certainly correct that the relative clause could be considered non-essential, and probably should be, but is it required?

A relative clause that identifies its antecedent is always essential (thus no comma), but does not serving to identify mean the clause is always nonessential?

I am not sure. I tend to treat relative clauses as nonessential when they are providing an unimportant extra detail similar to an aside.

Your thoughts?

Replies:   richardshagrin
Ross at Play

@Daler

Now free, the girl snatched her brother's hand and bolted to their mother.


Alternatively might read "Now free, the girl snatches her brother's hand and together they bolt straight for their mother.

Good catch. It is explicit in the original that the girl and the brother's hand went to the mother. It's ambiguous whether the rest of the brother came too. That can be inferred from the use of 'their mother' but, at best, has created a temporary ambiguity about the subject of 'bolted'. The word 'they' should definitely be inserted before 'bolted'. I don't think that inserting 'together' too is either necessary or desirable.

I notice you changed the tenses of SB's verbs from past to present tense, presumably on the grounds that 'now' means the actions are in the present. I'm not certain, but I don't think that is necessary.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

But, again, it was the singular "back" of the heads that I wanted to write "backs." But I'm sure "back" is correct. And now that no one countered with "backs," I'm even more sure of it.

I think 'back' is okay. That treats the back of a collective object, 'their heads', as a singular object. OTOH, you could choose to treat the backs of their heads as a plural object.

I suspect more speakers of BrE would choose 'back' than Americans, but neither is wrong to me. I prefer 'back'.

richardshagrin

@Ross at Play

A relative clause

Is it a relative clause because it is about their mother?

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

That's why I prefer short sentences.

I've made five posts questioning different aspects of the grammar or clarity of one sentence. Breaking up this sentence sounds like a good idea to me. :-)

BlacKnight

@Switch Blayde

You need a comma between "mother" and "who". I'd make it "backs", but I wouldn't say that "back" is actually wrong.

And, yes, it's definitely "who", not "whom". "Who" is the subject of the verb "clutched", and subjects take the nominative case, "who", not the objective "whom".

If you have doubts, try replacing the relative pronoun with the personal pronoun. Is it "she clutched them in her arms", or "her clutched them in her arms"? "She" is the nominative, "her" is the objective.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


but the last comma makes it sound dubious to me. I'd replace that with 'and'.


That's a technique I use. Sometimes it sounds better to my ear without the "and." For what it's worth, when I rewrote it I put in the "and" but then took it out.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

@BlacKnight

You need a comma between "mother" and "who".

Could you explain, please. Is it just, as AJ suggests, that the relative clause is non-essential because it doesn't serve to identify its antecedent?

Switch Blayde

@BlacKnight

I'd make it "backs"


I originally wrote "backs" but then changed it to "back." I think "backs" means each has more than one back of the head.

It's like "They touched each other's tongues." That's wrong. It should be "They touched each other's tongue."

But I'm not 100% sure and wondered what others thought.

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

With the comma rather than the 'and', it's a dangling participle. Which confirms my assertion elsewhere that although dangling participles are wrong, often the reader can interpret them so readily that the don't notice.

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I originally wrote "backs" but then changed it to "back." I think "backs" means each has more than one back of the head.

It's like "They touched each other's tongues." That's wrong. It should be "They touched each other's tongue."

But I'm not 100% sure and wondered what others thought.

I have looked and cannot find anything that suggests 'each other' is not always singular.

My thoughts, and I'm not sure either, are:

* The singular each other, possessive form each other's, requires the singular tongue (at least for species with only one tongue).

* The plural heads, possessive of their heads, does not require the plural backs. It is not unreasonable to treat their heads as a singular object with only one back.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

But, again, it was the singular "back" of the heads that I wanted to write "backs." But I'm sure "back" is correct. And now that no one countered with "backs," I'm even more sure of it.


'back of heads' can suggest multiple heads share the same back

'backs of heads' can suggest each individual head can have multiple heads.

Isn't English great!

FWIW, I found a Huffpost article that agrees with your version:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/zsofi-mcmullin/why-moms-have-eyes-in-the-back-of-their-heads_b_6962788.html?guccounter=1

AJ

PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

It may not be wrong, but what sounds wrong to me is that the "clutched them" (plural) seems to be referring to "her brother's hand" (singular). It isn't clear at all that what it means is that the mother is clutching both the girl and her brother in her arms.

Ross at Play

@PotomacBob

It may not be wrong, but what sounds wrong to me is that the "clutched them" (plural) seems to be referring to "her brother's hand" (singular). It isn't clear at all that what it means is that the mother is clutching both the girl and her brother in her arms.

I agree that 'them' is ambiguous. I said above that the word 'they' must be inserted to resolve that, giving this:

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. The girl snatched her brother's hand and they ran to their mother who clutched them in her arms, cupping the back of their heads, smothering their faces in her breasts.

Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

what sounds wrong to me is that the "clutched them" (plural)


The paragraph has been rewritten multiple times since this post and probably will be changed down the road. For now it is:

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. Now free, the girl snatched her brother's hand and dragged him to their mother who grabbed both by the front of their shirts and pulled them into her body, clutching them in her arms. Bella cupped the back of her children's heads and smothered their faces in her bosom.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

For now it is ...

The only grammatical problem I see is that I think a comma before "who" is mandatory, because the relative clause is nonrestrictive.

I also think it's desirable to replace "her children's heads" with "their heads", mainly to create a parallel structure with "their faces".

Replies:   Switch Blayde
red61544

@Switch Blayde

I wanted to write "backs."


Same here, although that woul;d make it even more stilted. Maybe he could avoid it by changing it to "...cupping their heads in her hands...."

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I think a comma before "who" is mandatory


I don't see why, but the sentence was too long so maybe that's why it seems needed. I fixed that with:

Marco released the children and strolled up to the woman's husband. Now free, the girl snatched her brother's hand and dragged him to their mother. Bella grabbed both by the front of their shirts and pulled them into her body, clutching them in her arms. With her eyes locked on Marco, she cupped the back of her children's heads, smothering their faces in her bosom.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play
I think a comma before "who" is mandatory


I don't see why

Perhaps I should have said a comma "is mandatory for formal writing". I usually adhere to the "rule" when writing informally.

Your relative clause ('who' and the entire clause it introduces) is "non-restrictive". The antecedent of 'who', 'mother', is not identified more precisely by the information in the relative clause. Non-restrictive relative clauses are separated at both ends from the main clause of a sentence in the same way as an aside (aka parenthetic phrase).

An example of a "restrictive" relative clause that should NOT be preceded by a comma is: 'They ran to the woman who was their mother.'

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

That's way above my pay grade. LOL

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

That's way above my pay grade. LOL

Didn't Stephen King say something like you're a successful writer if someone sends you cheques that you can cash and buy groceries?

My cupboard is empty and will remain so. :-)

BTW, another example of a restrictive relative clause is 'that you can cash and buy groceries'.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

you're a successful writer if


Teenagers on wattpad always want to know if a teenager can publish a book. Are they too young? I created a thread the other day telling them I saw on the local news that a local boy had a book-signing in Barnes & Nobel. He is 14. Looks like he's self-published so I don't know how he got into Barnes & Nobel, but he did.

One teenager posted on the thread:

My parents are saying that becoming successful at a young age is stupid and gets you in trouble because it's an immaturity thing and I come from a country where wanting to be a legit writer means becoming homeless and never making it to Bestsellers or really huge opportunities.


I believe she means her parents are saying to believe you can be successful as a teenager is stupid and immature. Horrible parents, btw.

I told her to define "successful." I replied that, "Every time someone buys one of my novels I feel successful."

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

Barnes & Nobel

Did you mean: Barnes & Noble?

Just an amateur proof-reader who googled Barnes & Nobel and got "Did you mean: Barnes & Noble" at the top of the list.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

Did you mean: Barnes & Noble?


Yes, the Pulitzer Prize store. LOL

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

It's the same criterion used to select whether 'that' or 'which' is more correct. Many writers get it wrong with no ill effects, other than some mocking at the hands of grammar-nazis who can't actually write a story themselves. Note that I may well belong to the latter category :(

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

It's the same criterion used to select whether 'that' or 'which' is more correct.

Technically, yes. I said about commas being "mandatory" that 'I usually adhere to the "rule" when writing informally.' I probably adhere less often, but still usually, with 'that' versus 'which'.

Many writers get it wrong with no ill effects, other than some mocking at the hands of grammar-nazis who can't actually write a story themselves.

I categorically deny any implication that I was "mocking". :-)

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