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Since Osan was Jihei's wife and Koharu was his adulteress, they represented his obligation and passion respectively.

I see three potential problems:

  1. Run-on sentence: There are two conjunctions and three clauses in a sentence.
  2. Ambiguous reference: The "they" obviously refers to Osan and Koharu; however one may also interprets "they" as Osan and Jihei or Jihei and Koharu when she/he ignores the gender difference.
  3. The structure of the sentence is awkward (to me).

I am a non-native speaker. Is there a better way to rewrite this sentence?

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The sentence is correct, grammatically and semantically. It correctly conveys the intended meaning with no ambiguity. It is naturally difficult to interpret for a non-native speaker, though. The context in which it occurs must have indicated that the language is somewhat difficult for one not entirely at home with English literature. The "potential problems" do not exist. –  Kris Nov 24 '12 at 8:15
    
It is amazing how my modified sentence is a mixture of Chris's and Barrie's answers before I read this post. Thank you very much guys and Kris, too. ;P –  Sean Nov 24 '12 at 13:41
    
If only you guys are my friends in real life, my English will improve so fast and I would not contemplate about sentence construction for so long~~. –  Sean Nov 24 '12 at 13:46
    
That isn't a run-on sentence, run-on sentences typically have a bunch of independent clauses and are joined by the word 'and' or a comma splice and these clauses express disparate enough thoughts that they should each be put in their own sentence, in your example the two parts go together well enough that it's not a run-on sentence and they are joined by the subordinating conjunction 'since' and not a correlating conjunction, which is typically the kind found in run-on sentences. –  Peter Shor Nov 24 '12 at 13:54
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2 Answers

It's not a run-on, but it could be put more clearly and simply. For instance:

Jihei's wife, Osan, and his mistress, Koharu, represented his obligation and passion.

There's no need to say "respectively," as this is clear from the context.

I'd use "symbolized" instead of "represented."

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I'd vote against this suggested restructuring; I think it reads too mechanically. Then again, it depends on context. What you've suggested works well for a newspaper article, where the flow of prose is often sacrificed for the sake of clarity. If I was going to work on an edit, I might suggest removing the word "since" and using a semi-colon instead of comma: Osan was Jihei's wife and Koharu was his adulteress; they represented his obligation and passion respectively. –  J.R. Nov 24 '12 at 11:11
    
Thank you Chris. –  Sean Nov 24 '12 at 13:43
    
Depending on the context, I might not write the sentence the way I've suggested! It was just an example. As a fan of the semicolon, I can get behind that. I stand behind, though, not using the word "represented" and removing the word "respectively." I might write "Osan and Koharu were his obligation and his passion," or something of the like, establishing the relationship beforehand. –  Chris Nov 24 '12 at 16:57
    
Chris: I'm glad I took the time to comment, then. A non-native speaker might come to ELU, ask a question like this, and interpret your rewording as a guideline to work from. Thanks to this dialog, though, the O.P. now knows there are at least two of us who feel that your rewrite is an example, not a suggestion. :^) –  J.R. Nov 26 '12 at 9:32
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The sentence is grammatical, having a main clause they represented . . . and a subordinate clause Since . . . In the absence of any other indication, I take they to refer to both Osan and Koharu. I would, however, change adultress to mistress. Adultress tends to be a pejorative term and is not normally modified by a possessive determiner.

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Thank you Barrie. –  Sean Nov 24 '12 at 13:45
    
@Sean. Hope it helps. –  Barrie England Nov 24 '12 at 17:11
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