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I am studying a book and one of the lines (which was written in the 30's) is,

We had admitted that we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

My question is whether or not it is to read this as two separate statements — meaning one could be true and not the other; or does it mean if the first is true then the second is also true?

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The second clause is an emphasis, expansion or elucidation of the first. It's not an alternative.

We had admitted that we were powerless over alcohol. We had admitted that our lives had become unmanageable.

Their lives had become unmanageable because of alcohol's power over them.

  • +1 For a technical term: the second that clause is in apposition to the first that clause. – StoneyB Jan 28 '13 at 16:23
  • Another textbook example of Conjunction Reduction, omitting the repeated subject, auxiliary, and verb in the second clause. And is optional, and here is signalled by the intonation instead. – John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 16:25

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