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I came across this sentence as I was reading a book:

My clothes disintegrated, victims of the sea.

I think saying:

My clothes, victims of the sea, disintegrated.

would be correct.

Which one is the right one?

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Edwin Ashworth, Dan Bron, Chenmunka, Misti Jul 23 '15 at 15:31

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  • 2
    @scohe001 I corrected the first sentence on OP's behalf. Lectifyingo: Now that the plurality issues have been fixed, both sentences are fine, as I said. The first is somewhat more lyrical. – Dan Bron Jul 21 '15 at 21:52
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    @DanBron Absolutely agree. Lyrical is the perfect adjective too. – scohe001 Jul 21 '15 at 21:54
  • @scohe001 Yes, the first is much more lyrical. Both "disintegrated" and "victims of the sea" have five syllables, but in the first the stress on the first two syllables of disintegrated matches the stress pattern of victims. In the second "of the sea" gets in the way. – Zan700 Jul 21 '15 at 23:41
3

It depends what you mean by correct.

  1. If you mean grammatically correct then yes, they both are.

  2. If you mean that your version is a correct (i.e. 100% accurate) paraphrase of the original then no it isn't.

Explanation

My clothes disintegrated, victims of the sea.

A possible paraphrase is: My clothes disintegrated [through being] victims of the sea.

The order of the words implies causality.

On the other hand, when we examine...

My clothes, victims of the sea, disintegrated.

... the meaning of this could be the same but it might not. You have changed the sequence of the words and therefore possibly the sequence of events.

Possible context

My clothes were victims of the sea because all the colours had run - they looked dreadful. I threw them in a bucket of bleach overnight with the intention of dying them a new colour. Unfortunately it was too strong and they disintegrated.

Notice that all the original words are included and in the order you gave them.

Now you might say that I have taken an awful lot of liberties with my proposed scenario but I would reply that your re-ordering allowed (even encouraged) me to do so.

  • "My clothes disintegrated through being victims of the sea" No. It should be "My clothes disintegrated, becoming victims of the sea." – scohe001 Jul 21 '15 at 22:43
  • I think both are right. – Lectifyingo Jul 21 '15 at 22:44
  • Either is possible. It doesn't affect my reasoning. – chasly from UK Jul 21 '15 at 22:44
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I think both correct. In the second, clothes and victims are plural nouns in apposition, helping make a conventional sentence. In the first, there is a much better sense of temporal order: first the clothes disintegrated, thereby becoming victims of the sea. That is why I prefer the second.

  • It sounds like you prefer the first. – Zan700 Jul 21 '15 at 23:29

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