Here is the sentence:

Are we suddenly see a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky?

I have a bet with an editor that this sentence has a mistake, and it cant't be correct in this writing. I think there must be Are we suddenly seeing.
But my opponent declare there are invisible commas in it, and it must be interpreted like:

Are, we suddenly see, a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky?

So, it's a parenthetical clause that we can throw out and the sentence will not lose its meaning.

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  • 1
    Aagh ! We suddenly see a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky. – Hugh Jul 2 '15 at 13:09
  • 2
    Are we suddenly seeing a dozen? or more? sailing in the clear blue sky? – Hugh Jul 2 '15 at 13:11
  • 3
    What kind of editor would not see the mistake in that question? And would actually bet money that there wasn't one? – Robusto Jul 2 '15 at 13:21
  • 5
    In practice no native speaker would make this statement. It would always be either Do we suddenly see a dozen... or Are there a dozen.... Discussing contrived interpretions of how to make OP's text "grammatical" are pointless. – FumbleFingers Jul 2 '15 at 13:21
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    Fire the editor. Either they can't admit to a simple oversight and are trying to come up with insultingly contrived reasons thinking you're an idiot, or they genuinely think that all they have to check for is theoretical syntactic possibility, but never probability, or the slightest hint of meaning, or the tiniest grain of style. Frankly I do not know which is worse. Fire them now. – RegDwigнt Jul 2 '15 at 13:27

I don't think the parenthesis idea works at all. Let's remove "we suddenly see":

Are a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky?

Ok. (I'd love to know what are sailing in the blue sky).

So, what did we take out?

we suddenly see

Either this means "see" literally; in which case we can count "them" Or "see" means

to be aware of - Merriam Webster

So, either way, if we know a dozen or more are sailing ... why do we then ask the question "are a dozen or more sailing?"

Reckon you're right, Nikoly. And even if it did make sense, it's appalling English.

("Are", we suddenly ask, "a dozen or more sailing in the sky?" might work.)

Additional answer after seeing linked video in comment below

I thought I heard "Now we suddenly see a dozen or more", but looking it up online I find:

Are we seing (sic) a dozen or more? - http://genius.com/Ryan-adams-when-pigs-fly-lyrics

Who knows what it is? Who cares? The editor's still wrong.

  • +1. Well argued. Another way of looking at it would be to take the parenthetical outside the sentence to its normal, canonical position and see how that works: and “We suddenly see, are a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky?” is quite obviously absolute arrant nonsense. You cannot see something that’s a question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 2 '15 at 13:38
  • youtu.be/ffhSkKviw1I?t=2m39s – Nikoly Jul 2 '15 at 13:38
  • Hang on. I suddenly see* from the video that it's "Now we suddenly see a dozen or more". No problem there. (* in the second sense of "see" above :-) ) Has this all been a waste of time? Quite good fun, though. – Margana Jul 2 '15 at 13:45
  • @Margana I had a suspicion there was "now". Actually I was looking for the lyrics and there was "now", but I'm not native speaker, so in that pronunciation it's equal for me "now" and "are" )) – Nikoly Jul 2 '15 at 13:52
  • The Summer Silly Season's Started :-) – Margana Jul 2 '15 at 14:00

"Are, we suddenly see, a dozen or more sailing in the clear blue sky?" - Incorrect.

There're commas, which if used (and visible), can change the meaning of the sentence. They don't change anything in the above sentence. Nor do they make the sentence appear correct or easily comprehensible.

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