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  1. #1
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    Default could break the heart of a reader

    Is this "could" for the past or the present? It's confusing. "Do" seems to give the cue of the present, but I'm not sure.

    ja23
    ex)As for your use of language, remember that two great masters, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which seemed childlike when their subjects were serious. "To be or not to be?" asks Shakespeare's Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce could put together a sentence as complicated and glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his story Eveline is this : "She was tired." No other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do. Simplicity of language is not only powerful, but perhaps even respectable.
    Last edited by keannu; 27-Sep-2012 at 15:06.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: could break the heart of a reader

    Maybe it's dubious even for native speakers.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: could break the heart of a reader

    Could you just answer me if it's really dubious?

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    Default Re: could break the heart of a reader

    The passage is odd. "The longest word is three letters long"? What does that mean? Even in the favorite sentence, the shortest word is three letters.

    I would have said the "could" is the past of "can" but the present-tense "do" makes that improbably, so I suppose it must be conditional. The words could break the readers's heart if the reader read them/let them... I don't know.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: could break the heart of a reader

    I filled out the missing part, but "To be or not to be" doesn't seem three letters long, and it doesn't seem to refer to James. either. I have no idea what it means and what "could" does, either.

  6. #6
    billmcd is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: could break the heart of a reader

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    Is this "could" for the past or the present? It's confusing. "Do" seems to give the cue of the present, but I'm not sure.

    ja23
    ex)As for your use of language, remember that two great masters, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which seemed childlike when their subjects were serious. "To be or not to be?" asks Shakespeare's Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce could put together a sentence as complicated and glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his story Eveline is this : "She was tired." No other words could (at any time in the past, now or in the future) break the heart of a reader as those three words do. Simplicity of language is not only powerful, but perhaps even respectable.
    The word "could" is very versitile. It can (could ) be used in a time reference for the present ("This could take a while."), the past (He couldn't open the door."), or the future ("I know you're busy, but you could call me tomorrow.")
    Last edited by billmcd; 27-Sep-2012 at 15:56.

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