Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I felt the article of New York Times N.Y. Region section (July 25) titled “A Revenge Plot So Intricate, the Prosecutors Were Pawns” reporting a woman being framed by her boyfriend into the charge with carrying out a series of armed robberies very intriguing. But I was hung up on one minor point – the function of the word, ‘one’ in the following sentence of the article:

“One night, Ms. Sumasar was pulled over by the police. Before she could speak, detectives slapped handcuffs on her. “You know you did it,” she said one later shouted at her. “Just admit it.”

What does ‘one’ here mean? Does it mean ‘one of the detectives’ or ‘a second later’? I am confused.

share|improve this question
2  
A poorly written sentence in a fascinating story. –  Malvolio Jul 26 '11 at 22:48
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It stands for one of the detectives. This sentence is poorly constructed, because it is difficult to parse; but it is syntactically correct. The conjunction that has been omitted (which is fine in itself).

“One night, Ms. Sumasar was pulled over by the police. Before she could speak, detectives slapped handcuffs on her. “You know you did it,” she said that one detective later shouted at her. “Just admit it.”

In a simpler sentence, this construction would be fine, because then there'd be no cause for confusion:

The picture she said I had stolen was in her attic.

share|improve this answer
    
I'd actually rewrite it as She said that one detective later shouted at her, "You know you did it. Just admit it." –  Marthaª Jul 26 '11 at 23:44
    
@Malvolio / @Martha. I was relieved to find your comments, because I suspected if 'one later shouted at her’ in this sentence is taken for granted to any native speakers, allowing no room for questioning. –  Yoichi Oishi Jul 27 '11 at 2:20
    
@Martha: Right, you could do that. It would change word order but make it much more readable. –  Cerberus Jul 27 '11 at 2:37
    
@Yoichi-san, I wouldn't worry that we find it that easy to read! The reason I don't find "a second" as easy to substitute as a possible meaning is that I must fill in a lot of other words to make it work: "one moment later he shouted at her," for example. My mind does fill these in at first - I might find the same meaning on a first read - but if read carefully and force myself not to fill in any seemingly missing words, "detective" is the only "one" that works. –  aedia λ Jul 27 '11 at 4:10
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.