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Here's a sentence I don't completely understand.

The story leaps back and forth in time with crisp juxtaposing of scenes set in disparate places. The production nevertheless unfolds with the seamless fluidity of one of those electronic stock tickers smoothly spinning out numbers on financial news channels.

In this, does "unfolds with the fluidity" mean "unfold like the fluidity"? Or does it mean "the production made the work with the fluidity..."? Or something else?

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  • Imagine a running stream of fluid - the water in a stream. Now imagine unfolding many folds of paper or cloth, the unfolding is like the stream of water - fluid. Jan 24, 2013 at 13:23
  • It means just what it says: with. Neither like nor anything else. "unfolds with seamless fluidity"; the definite article after with points at "the seamless fluidity of one of those ...".
    – Kris
    Jan 24, 2013 at 15:17

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I think I can see the underlying thought-processes here, anox (I have been known to be wrong). Prepositional phrases have varied roles.

Contrast (all examples from the Internet):

1. New Dumbo ride ...has opened with surprising details and eye-pleasing features.

Here, the PP really gives extra information about the new ride rather than the opening process. This is seen by restructuring (though this does give a slightly different emphasis):

New Dumbo ride ..., with surprising details and eye-pleasing features, has opened.

If I had to, I'd class your first example as being of this usage, though it feels a little clumsy to me. I'd prefer:

The story leaps back and forth in time. Scenes set in disparate places are crisply juxtaposed.

2. [T]he door opened with surprising ease for its apparent weight.

In this case, the PP is adverbial, describing the ease of performing the action. Your (second sentence) example is of this class, if rather longer. Try substituting seamlessly for with ... channels.

3. The film opened with a lengthy introduction to May as a child.

Arguably, opened with should be regarded as a multi-word verb here (there isn't a one-word replacement, but included is in the same ballpark).

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  • Thanks. I understand what you mean. I was just confused about the literal meaning, thinking whether it means "unfolding with the actual stock tickers" or "unfolding like the stock tickers"...I mean the fluidity of it.
    – anox
    Jan 24, 2013 at 15:48

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