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Example:

The forest was dark and the trees too many. I could hardly tell shadows apart.

Is the usage of apart correct in the passage above?

(I'm wondering about this because a Google Books search returned only one result).

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Try searching for "tell the shadows apart". Your use of apart is fine. –  Andrew Leach Feb 20 at 14:27
    
You may perhaps understand the sentence better if we modify it a bit. The forest was dark and the trees too many. I could hardly tell shadows apart from the trees. –  JayHook Feb 20 at 14:48
    
@JayHook What I meant was: "I can't tell the shadows apart from each other." –  janoChen Feb 20 at 14:51
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about writing advice. –  FumbleFingers Feb 20 at 16:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There isn't anything inherently ungrammatical about your example but it is slightly confusing:

I could hardly tell shadows apart.

Apart from what? Other shadows? Trying to tell shadows apart from other shadows is always difficult. Any alternatives would depend on the specific context but it may help to clarify the sentence.

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That's an absolutely valid usage. Check out the meaning of this idiom

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