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Are the following both grammatically correct, or is one incorrect and why? (Usage context: book, not an essay).

Original:

He erases whatever he wills, and fixes. With him is the original record.

Friend's suggestion:

He erases and fixes whatever he wills. With him is the original record.

  • With him is the original record is at best some sort of tortured English. What is it supposed to mean other than an odd riddle? – virmaior Feb 9 '14 at 9:55
  • @virmaior There's no tortured English in "With him is the original record". It happens to use subject-dependent inversion, e.g. "In the drawer was a gun", which is part of today's standard English. – F.E. Feb 9 '14 at 19:59
  • @F.E. inversion I understand, but limits are there to when is it wise. – virmaior Feb 9 '14 at 22:00
  • @virmaior It depends on context as to the acceptability of a specific sentence. That sentence "With him is the original record", per se, has nothing wrong with it. The issue is information packaging: the order in how the author wishes to introduce the bits of information to the reader. – F.E. Feb 9 '14 at 22:29
  • Obviously, depends it on the context whether one should use inversion. But using inversion is best limited to certain contexts like subjunctives or places where there is an emphatic value for it. I take the sentence worded in normal order to be he has the original record, so I think the inversion in this case is uncalled for. – virmaior Feb 9 '14 at 22:32
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He erases whatever he wills, and fixes.

This is grammatically incorrect, because "to fix" is a transitive verb. It requires an object: something which gets fixed. "He [...] fixes." is an incomplete sentence, because it is not apparent what he is fixing.

He erases and fixes whatever he wills.

This is grammatically correct: he fixes "whatever he wills". He also erases "whatever he wills".

With him is the original record.

This is correct but archaic. Modern English would reverse this and put the adverbial phrase "with him" at the end: "The original record is with him." The original construction is, strictly speaking, correct, but it is a more old-fashioned - even archaic - way of writing the sentence.

So, the first option is grammatically incorrect because "he fixes" is lacking an object (the thing being fixed).

  • The syntax of the second sentence is rarely seen, and can be considered archaic, but it is quite a useful technique. It is called chiasmus and is found in many languages. 'With him is the original record' emphasizes the possessor of the record (with him), whereas 'the original record is with him' emphasizes the record itself. – Anonym Feb 9 '14 at 19:36
  • -1 because the points you made are erroneous. For instance, there's nothing archaic in the structure of "With him is the original record". It happens to use subject-dependent inversion, e.g. "In the drawer was a gun", which is part of today's standard English. – F.E. Feb 9 '14 at 19:57
  • @F.E., I disagree. There's nothing archaic about inversion in itself, but there are certain structures where inversion was common enough in earlier stages of English, but awkward. One such pattern is where the topicalised element is a preposition with a pronominal object: “At me stared he” is certainly not normal, current English, and nor is “With him is the original record”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 '14 at 16:08
  • @JanusBahsJacquet “At me stared he” is certainly not normal, current English, and nor is “With him is the original record”. -- I know that I can easily come up with a context where a writer would prefer to end a paragraph with the sentence in the form of “With him is the original record” instead of the non-inverted version. There is nothing ungrammatical or "not normal" about the inverted version. I'm an AmE speaker. I'm wondering, would you be by chance an EFL speaker? – F.E. Feb 16 '14 at 23:06
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After further research, it appears the issue (in the original) was one of a transitive verb (in the sentence: "fixes") that did not have an explicit object. Instead the object was implied from context.

Thank you all for your inputs.

  • Usually one would use a pronoun, e.g. and fixes them. – Barmar Feb 23 '14 at 5:43

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