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    #1

    what's the subject?

    Dear all,
    I've already asked a question about the passage below, but I'm still struggling with it.
    Regaring the sentence in bold, which "she" is the possible subject of "always would do" at the end?

    'Where are you going?' my grandmother would demand of her daughter, forty-six and a widow for fifteen years.
    'I'm going out.' My mother's reply would be even and 1.she would look defiant as I imagine 2. she had done at sixteen, and always would do.
    'You're not going with that man, are you?'
    'What do you mean "that man"? You know who I'm going with and you know his name.'

    ・If it's #1, the "and" right before "always would do" connects "would look defiant..." and "always would do".
    ・If it's #2, it connects "had done at sixteen" and "always would do".

    This question may sound odd to native speakers of English, but not for some L2 learners like me, who has to fall back on grammatical analysis for understanding.

    Thank you!

    OP
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 27-Oct-2011 at 15:14.

  1. JohnParis's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: what's the subject?

    I've seen this question before. I don't know if I replied to it, but I'll give it a try.

    Dear Optimistic Pessimist,
    The grammar may be difficult for you because you may not understand the situation at hand. Rather than search for an obscure rule of grammar, humor me and put yourself into the situation that is being described. Pretend you are listening to the speaker and watching the scene/situation.

    In this scene, there are:
    1. The speaker (who is either the son or daughter of the mother and who is telling the story)
    2. The mother
    3. The grandmother

    The speaker is describing an incident that took place in the past. He is speaking to an audience - or maybe just to you. The point is, he is narrating an interaction between his mother and his grandmother that he observed. He is now recreating the scene as if he is there, in person, in the room.

    Put the scene in another light:

    'Where are you going?', my grandmother would demand of her daughter, (aged) forty-six and a widow for fifteen years.
    'I'm going out', my mother would reply, calmly. As she spoke, my mother would look at my grandmother as defiantly as I imagine she looked at her when she was 16 years old, and exactly how she would always look at her when the subject came up.
    That is what the sentence: "My mother's reply would be even and shewould look (as) defiant as I imagine she had done at (the age of) sixteen, and always would do" means.
    The author's use of English is sophisticated and represents a style that many readers rarely encounter. Some native speakers may find it inspired, others may find it necessary to re-read the sentences several times before understanding the situation completely. At any rate, understanding the context can only help you grasp the grammar.

    I do hope this helps.
    John

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    #3

    Re: what's the subject?

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate it.Your detailed description of the scene helped me a lot, but I'd like to ask a little more about this.

    "'Where are you going?', my grandmother would demand of her daughter, (aged) forty-six and a widow for fifteen years.
    'I'm going out', my mother would reply, calmly. As she spoke, my mother would look at my grandmother as defiantly as I imagine she looked at her when she was 16 years old, and exactly how she would always look at her when the subject came up."

    The repeated "woulds" are still confusing to me. If the author is describing a particular past incident, why does she use "would" repeatedly? If so, I think the first and second "woulds" aren't necessary. The passage below, in which there's only one "would", perfectly makes sense to me.

    'I'm going out', my mother replied, calmly. As she spoke, my mother looked at my grandmother as defiantly as I imagine she looked at her when she was 16 years old, and (it was?) exactly how she would always look at her when the subject came up.

    Am I still missing the point?

    OP
    Last edited by optimistic pessimist; 27-Oct-2011 at 23:47.

  2. JohnParis's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: what's the subject?

    Dear OP.
    No, I think you have understood the point perfectly.

    All of those "woulds" were mine.
    I added them and used them to set the scene - to enrich the atmosphere. I would never write anything with that many 'woulds' in a sentence.
    But, it is interesting to note that your removal of them in your final sentence proves that you have learned what we set out to accomplish. Bravo.

    John

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    #5

    Re: what's the subject?

    Quote Originally Posted by optimistic pessimist View Post
    Dear all,
    I've already asked a question about the passage below, but I'm still struggling with it.
    Regaring the sentence in bold, which "she" is the possible subject of "always would do" at the end?

    'Where are you going?' my grandmother would demand of her daughter, forty-six and a widow for fifteen years.
    'I'm going out.' My mother's reply would be even and 1.she would look defiant as I imagine 2. she had done at sixteen, and always would do.
    'You're not going with that man, are you?'
    'What do you mean "that man"? You know who I'm going with and you know his name.'

    ・If it's #1, the "and" right before "always would do" connects "would look defiant..." and "always would do".
    ・If it's #2, it connects "had done at sixteen" and "always would do".

    This question may sound odd to native speakers of English, but not for some L2 learners like me, who has to fall back on grammatical analysis for understanding.

    Thank you!

    OP
    Sense clearly indicates #2.

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    #6

    Re: what's the subject?

    Hi philo2009,

    Thanks for your reply.
    If it's #2, "as I imagine she had done at sixteen and always would do" is a chunk of meaning? Is "and always would do" included in what the author imagine?

    OP

    Quote Originally Posted by optimistic pessimist View Post
    Dear all,
    I've already asked a question about the passage below, but I'm still struggling with it.
    Regaring the sentence in bold, which "she" is the possible subject of "always would do" at the end?

    'Where are you going?' my grandmother would demand of her daughter, forty-six and a widow for fifteen years.
    'I'm going out.' My mother's reply would be even and 1.she would look defiant as I imagine 2. she had done at sixteen, and always would do.
    'You're not going with that man, are you?'
    'What do you mean "that man"? You know who I'm going with and you know his name.'

    ・If it's #1, the "and" right before "always would do" connects "would look defiant..." and "always would do".
    ・If it's #2, it connects "had done at sixteen" and "always would do".

    This question may sound odd to native speakers of English, but not for some L2 learners like me, who has to fall back on grammatical analysis for understanding.

    Thank you!

    OP

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    #7

    Re: what's the subject?

    Yes.

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