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Is "time spent, places been," in the following sentence grammatically correct and if so, is that usage common? I take it to mean "time she had spent and places she had been to."

Maynard is survived by her husband and his family, her mother and stepfather. "While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years," the obituary said.

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  • One may read it with a generous preposition insert being implied: "time spent, place been (in/to) ." – Kris Nov 19 '14 at 6:48
  • Similar to the phrase places to go, people to see. – Barmar Nov 20 '14 at 16:50
  • In 'Newsprint', leave out auxiliary verbs, articles [and] -replace conjunctions with punctuation. -8 grammar rules writing newspaper headlines – Mazura Feb 11 '15 at 2:46
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I have two concerns, both stylistic, the first regarding syntactical clarity, and the second regarding usage.

1) While the sentence is grammatically correct, it is unnecessarily unclear. The writer means, "[S]he left this world with zero regrets on time [she had] spent, places [she had] been, or people she [had] loved in her 29 years." You can see from the bracketed elisions of the past perfect helping verbs that the construction is not parallel. Technically, the last "she" in the series should be omitted to preserve the parallel structure; or the complete construction "she had" should be included in all three instances of the series, which would not only preserve parallelism, but also be clearer. No double-take trying to figure out what's what in the sentence.

2) Perhaps this is only a regional or dialectical peeve, but I'm pretty sure "with zero regrets on" should be "with zero regrets for."

PS I think the suggestion to add "been to" is awful. Not only does it end a clause with a preposition (which doesn't really bother me, but it's supposed to), but it's just not necessary. "Places she had been" is as clear as "Places she had been to," although the meaning is a little different. The former suggests places she "had been implanted" (even temporarily), whereas "been to" suggests ones she "had visited" (surely temporarily).

My two cents (or perhaps ten).

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  • 1) While the sentence is grammatically correct, it is unnecessarily unclear. The writer means, "[S]he left this world with zero regrets on time [she had] spent, places [she had] been, or people she [had] loved in her 29 years." I'm sure that's exactly what the writer means. I can't think that anyone would disagree. So how can it be 'unnecessarily unclear'? It's punchier than the starchy fuller version. And, if carved on the tombstone, cheaper. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '15 at 0:09
  • I didn't mean the statement should be fuller and "starchier," but that the lack of parallelism made it a little unclear. Just take out the extra "she" is what I meant. I just saved them a dollar for the tombstone. Also, I would replace "been" with a better verb, such as "visited," although then they'd have to give the dollar back. – Doonser May 12 '20 at 3:49
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I think in this case, as in so many cases, the name of the game is context. It's probably clear to most native (and maybe even fluent) English speakers what the meaning is in the context it's in.

However, non-native speakers might have a harder time getting the exact meaning. So if the writer cares about the non-natives, the writer should use the long form you mention in your question.

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  • So, he is saying: Yes it is grammatically correct, but no, it is not common. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 10 '15 at 5:29
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I think in this case, for a native as well as a non-native English speaker, it sounds grammatically incorrect. The correct sentence should be ""While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places HAD been TO, or people she loved in her 29 years," the obituary said." This keeps everything in the past and in relevance ( time spent , places had been to and people she loved ).

Jebakumar Eugene Asirvatham

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  • As a native English speaker, I can't say that it 'sounds grammatically incorrect' to me. Mind you, I have been reading an article looking at over a dozen different types of grammar. All different, each the favourite of some linguist or other. It's certainly in an elliptical and highly informal register; rules on exactly what deletions are 'allowed' are hard to find. You yourself are pushing it with no 'she' in 'places HAD been TO' though – wouldn't you agree? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '15 at 17:09
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The real problem with this phrase is that, while you can love people and spend time, you can't really be a place.

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