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I have this sentence in something I'm writing:

She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm she would have slipped it into a guillotine.

This sounds wrong to me. I feel like it should be something like:

…with the same enthusiasm she would have shown slipping it into a guillotine.

Some kind of problem with the tenses, perhaps.

Is this wrong, or is it just me? If so, what rule of grammar is it breaking, and what alternatives exist, ideally less wordy than my proposed alternative?

  • Your rewrite is better; 'She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm with which she would have slipped it into a guillotine' becomes ungrammatical without the 'with which'. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '14 at 23:29
  • @EdwinAshworth Ah, that instantly sounds better! I can sort of see why the "with which" is necessary, would you be able to pin down what exactly is going on in an answer? – Jack M May 9 '14 at 23:32
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    The same ... as and as ... as are Equative constructions, and have special syntax. – John Lawler May 9 '14 at 23:45
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it looks like a pedantic peeve. – FumbleFingers May 9 '14 at 23:52
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    First of all, I wouldn't describe placing your head under a guillotine as slipping into one. You can slip on shoes, underpants, a t-shirt, and in this case, a hat or a helmet. The action of putting on a helmet is short and instantaneous. You don't wear a guillotine so I would change the preposition "She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm as if she had slid (or slipped) it under a guillotine. – Mari-Lou A May 10 '14 at 6:38
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I'm going to go the other way from the other commentators. I like the structure, but you need a present participle rather than a past participle. I like:

"She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm she would have slipping it into a guillotine."

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She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm she would have slipped it into a guillotine.

compare the simpler but analogous

He putted the ball with the same club he had driven it.

He putted the ball into the hole with the same club he had driven it off the tee.

A 'with which' is necessary to make 'the club he had driven it' into the grammatical 'the club with which he had driven it'.

And similarly, 'with which' is needed to make 'the same enthusiasm she would have slipped it into a guillotine' into 'the same enthusiasm with which she would have slipped it into a guillotine'.

  • So according to you, in order to make your "simpler" example "grammatical", we'd have to phrase it as He putted the ball with the same club with which he had driven it. Sorry, but I don't buy it. – FumbleFingers May 9 '14 at 23:54
  • The fact that 'same' is tautological does not render 'He putted the ball with the same club with which he had driven it' ungrammatical, but I'd omit it ('He putted the ball with the club with which he had driven it') if I didn't wish to stress the incongruity involved. There can be an elision, but not of the 'with': 'He putted the ball with the same club he had driven it with.' *'He putted the ball with the same club he had driven it.' As Erik states above. 'Those were the people I was later to eat with' needs that final 'with'. – Edwin Ashworth May 10 '14 at 12:09
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In this example you are missing a 'that' which I think is acting as a relative pronoun.

'She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm that she would have slipped it into a guillotine.'

  • Yes and no: "She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm that she would have slipped it into a guillotine with". – Erik Kowal May 10 '14 at 3:44
  • why is the with necessary grammatically? I haven't seen it used or used it with a 'with' and the meaning is fully conveyed. – Sam May 10 '14 at 11:26
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"She slipped her head into the helmet as enthusiatically as she would have slipped it into a guillotine.

Or

"She was showing as much enthusiasm slipping her head into the helmet as slipping it into a guillotine."

Or

"She slipped her head into the helmet with as much enthusiasm as slipping it into a guillotine."

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She slipped her head into the helmet with the same enthusiasm she would have slipped it into a guillotine

Some rewrites:

  1. She slipped on the helmet with all the enthusiasm she would slipping into a guillotine.
  2. She slipped her head into the helmet as though into a guillotine
  3. She slipped on her helmet as excitedly as if it were a guillotine

And my favorite, it takes a little more liberties but...

  1. She slipped her head into the helmet as though into a noose.

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