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    #1

    it was not, in reality, so distant

    Hi,

    What does the boldfaced pronoun it refer to in the following extract from Frankenstein?

    This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we believed, many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote that it was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in, however, by ice, it was impossible to follow his track, which we had observed with the greatest attention.

    I'd appreciate your help.

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    #2

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    "It" refers to the distance from land, or simply 'land'.
    We believed we were many hundred miles from land, but ... land, in reality, was not so distant.

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    #3

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    "It" refers to the distance from land, or simply 'land'.
    We believed we were many hundred miles from land, but ... land, in reality, was not so distant.

    The original has "any land." Do you find the use of it to refer to "land" to the exclusion of "any" odd in current English?
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 05-Jun-2020 at 14:12.

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    #4

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    "Any" doesn't make any/a difference. If you're a long way from any land, you're a long way from land, and vice versa.
    The "land" that "it" refers to is "any land" at all, which is land.

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    #5

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    "Any" doesn't make any/a difference. If you're a long way from any land, you're a long way from land, and vice versa.
    The "land" that "it" refers to is "any land" at all, which is land.

    I'm wondering whether that use, i.e. reference to "any land" to the exclusion of "any," is also valid in in the varieties of English spoken in the 21st century.
    Consider the following:

    A: Do you have any water in the bottle?
    B: * Yes, I have it.

  6. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post

    I'm wondering whether that use, i.e. reference to "any land" to the exclusion of "any," is also valid in in the varieties of English spoken in the 21st century.
    Consider the following:

    A: Do you have any water in the bottle?
    B: * Yes, I have some.

    Or: Yes, I do. Yes, I have plenty. Yes, I have a little.
    We use any all the time. It's not outdated.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #7

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    We use any all the time. It's not outdated.
    The issue is whether the pronoun "it" can refer to a head noun in a "any+Noun" combination excluding the "any."
    Why is that possible in Shelley's sentence but not in the two-sentence dialogue?

    Consider a more parallel expression:
    :
    "We thought we were far from any water, but the humidity showed it was closer than we thought."

    In current English, is the sentence more likely expressed as, "
    We thought we were far from any water, but the humidity showed there
    was some closer than we thought"?




    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 07-Jun-2020 at 00:16.

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    #8

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    I don't fully understand what's troubling you here. What do you mean by "to the exclusion of any"?

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    Why is that possible in Shelley's sentence but not in the two-sentence dialogue?
    Because in Shelley's sentence, the voice is thinking of, and referring to, a particular piece of land, which is what turned out to be the closest piece of land.

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    #9

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't fully understand what's troubling you here. What do you mean by "to the exclusion of any"?
    By "to the exclusion of 'any,'" I mean "without 'any," when the head noun is modified by "any."
    As Raymott indicated in post #2, "It" refers to the distance from land, or simply 'land'.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Because in Shelley's sentence, the voice is thinking of, and referring to, a particular piece of land, which is what turned out to be the closest piece of land.
    If a particular piece of land had been meant, why wouldn't she have used "the" or "a piece of"?
    If I were in a nightclub looking for a particular man, I'd say to the person working the door, "I'm looknig for a man," not "I'm looking for any man."
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 07-Jun-2020 at 04:21.

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    #10

    Re: it was not, in reality, so distant

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    If a particular piece of land had been meant, why wouldn't she have used "the" or "a piece of"?
    You mean instead of any land?

    When he says "miles from any land", he's not referring to a particular piece of land, but when he says it, he obviously is. He's referring to the piece of land on which they saw the apparition.

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