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I took the following sentences from the book, "Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century" I bolded particularly confusing parts and would appreciate some explanation.

Europe is still in the process of reorganizing itself after the loss of its empire and two devastating world wars, and it remains to be seen whether that reorganization will be peaceful. Europe is not going to regain its empire, but the complacent certainty that intra-European wars have ended needs to be examined.

What does war have ended needs to be examined mean? Unclear.

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I don't have edit privileges yet, but the bolded section is "Europe is not going to regain its empire, but the complacent certainty that intra-European wars have ended needs to be examined." –  Matthew Frederick Jul 8 '11 at 11:59
    
that's the confusing sentence cut and pasted directly from the kindle. –  Anderson Silva Jul 8 '11 at 12:03
    
The markdown parser loses track of the bold formatting after a new line. Start the quoted portion with a single > character and remove the rest, making it one long sentence. –  Matthew Frederick Jul 8 '11 at 12:10
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It was not clear at first but I think you can use the following structure:

Europe is not going to regain its empire, but [the complacent certainty] [that intra-European wars have ended] needs to be examined.

  • "the complacent certainty" is the grammatical subject of needs to be examined;
  • "that intra-European wars have ended" is a relative clause (introduced by the relative pronoun that), which modifies the main one "the complacent certainty".

You could rephrase it like this without getting too wordy:

Europe is not going to regain its empire, but what needs to be examined is the complacent certainty that intra-European wars have ended.

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Huh. I thought it was perfectly clear that needs was the main verb. Still, this is a good analysis, so +1 from me. –  user1579 Jul 8 '11 at 12:03
    
@Rhodri: Yes, well, you're right, needs is the main verb, but I wanted to include that other part to avoid being ambiguous excluding something. Should I be more specific? –  Alenanno Jul 8 '11 at 12:05
    
No, no, I was just reacting to you saying that the sentence wasn't clear at first. It is lengthy, but I thought it was pretty straightforward. In any case, you captured it well. –  user1579 Jul 8 '11 at 12:07
    
At first I was a bit disoriented, yes, but after 2 readings it became clearer. :) Thanks! –  Alenanno Jul 8 '11 at 12:09
    
To be picky, "that ... " is not a relative clause, but the object complement of the noun "certainty". –  Colin Fine Jul 8 '11 at 14:34
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By "the wars have ended" the author means "there will be no future wars". The tense implies that said wars are the norm and that if there is no war now it may be only temporary, like all such periods without war in the past.

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Taking the key bit

but the complacent certainty that intra-European wars have ended needs to be examined.

The writer says the feeling that anyone/everyone might have - that there will no further intra-European wars - is incorrect and needs further examination.

You're splitting the sentence at the wrong point. The clause "needs to be examined" is operative with "complacent certainty"

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