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So I saw this xkcd, and when I tried reading it, I always felt like the ending was a bit... unbalanced.

It says:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go. (Next 5 miles.)

I can't figure out what's wrong with it, though... it's as if some word (e.g. "at"?) was supposed to follow the word "go".

So I was wondering, is the sentence grammatically correct, or is it indeed missing something?
If so, what?

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18  
The sentence is gramatically fine and, moreover, is exactly suited to the feeling its author wishes to express. If you remove or change a word — imperfection ensues. –  Robusto Jul 2 '12 at 22:04
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So what's wrong with ending a sentence with an infinitive? It seems far more fluent than OP starting his first sentence in this post with the word so. Is it just me? I find that a really inappropriate way to introduce a question on ELU. It sounds like a stand-up comedian's opening line. –  FumbleFingers Jul 2 '12 at 23:26
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@FumbleFingers: I wasn't trying to criticize the xkcd (heck, it's not even supposed to be grammatically correct); I was just asking a grammar question... no need to get annoyed. –  Mehrdad Jul 3 '12 at 0:15
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@Mehrdad: I'm not annoyed. But you've asked quite a few good questions here, so I assume you're keen to improve your English. That (in the preceding sentence) was a reasonable context in which to use the word "so". The opening paragraph of your question definitely isn't, and many people would say neither is the final paragraph (you won't learn anything like that by studying xkcd, but such knowledge is freely available here on ELU! :) –  FumbleFingers Jul 3 '12 at 0:33
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@FumbleFingers: lol, okay thanks.. –  Mehrdad Jul 3 '12 at 0:45
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3 Answers 3

up vote 38 down vote accepted

It's perfectly fine. Let's rewrite it to see what's going on.

Original:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

"box on wheels" => "car"
"hurtling along" => "going"

Creates:

You're in a car going several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

Now we can erase this unnecessary part:

You're in a car going several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

Finally creating:

You're in a car going faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

If you want to go even further, you can simplify all this to:

You're going faster than you are prepared to go.

Seems all fine here!

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2  
Awesome answer, thanks! –  Mehrdad Jul 2 '12 at 22:11
8  
Two more steps: You are going faster than you should, and Slow down! –  TimLymington Jul 2 '12 at 22:14
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very good, +1. As has been said on these boards by those more sage than I, "grammar isn't about strings of words, it's about constructions and their constituents". –  Mark Beadles Jul 2 '12 at 23:29
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Hmm. "You're going faster than you are prepared to go" would normally be interpreted as meaning "...faster than you are willing to go". A more fluent version is "You're going faster than you're designed to [go]" (most speakers would omit that final go). –  FumbleFingers Jul 3 '12 at 0:38
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So basically, it was 'You're going faster than you're prepared to go', and OP thought it said, 'You're going at a higher speed than you are prepared to go at.' –  Saad Rehman Shah Jul 3 '12 at 4:51
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I think it would be better phrased as:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could have possibly prepared you to go. (Next 5 miles.)

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12  
Personally, I disagree. "could possibly have" clearly sets the emphasis on "prepared you to go". "could have possibly prepared" muddles the "possibly" and the punchline. I therefore prefer the original. –  Rex Kerr Jul 3 '12 at 4:17
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The sentence is perfectly fine. However, what may be throwing you off is the change of verbs.

Let's break down the sentence (similarly to how @RiMMER has):

Original:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

Changing "box on wheels" to "car" and removing unnecessary parts.

Creates:

You're in a car hurtling along faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to go.

and finally, if we go even further, we can simplify all this to:

You're hurtling along faster than you are prepared to go.

In the sentence, we first refer to the movement as hurtling, and then refer to it as going. There is a change of verb! However, because the two verbs are used to represent the same action, this is not an error.


In order to avoid this verb change the original sentence would have had to have been:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to hurtle along.

or

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along several times faster than evolution could possibly have prepared you to.

Note that this sentence ends with a preposition, which is, for whatever reason, undesirable to some (although not necessarily wrong according to Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster online)

Finally, if you don't want to end with a preposition:

You're in a box on wheels hurtling along at a speed that is several times faster than that for which evolution could possibly have prepared you.

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