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One day, I came across this sentence:

  1. This chance was too tempting a chance to resist.

Even though this sounded perfectly natural to me, as I tried to get the full meaning out of it, I found it a little strange. What I thought right to say is this:

  1. This chance was a chance too tempting to resist.

If you look at the sentence 1 closely, it seems to mean that the "too tempting a chance" had to be resisted by me. Like as in "it is something to resist", which means this something should be resisted by you. It seems that "to resist" is a simple adjective prepositional phrase that modifies a whole complete noun phrase "too tempting a chance". The meaning it conveys, to me, is "too tempting a chance I am to (or should) resist."

The sentence 2 means "a chance that was too tempting to resist", which means that the chance was hard to resist, for it was too tempting.

The reason this sentence 1 seems, to me, to mean the different thing from the sentence 2 is the apartness of the "to resist" from "too tempting". When they are separated with a noun "a chance" in between them, as in sentence 1, it seems that they lose their usual characteristic of describing that "too...adjective...to...do something", and just work as separate adjectives: "to resist" explains the whole noun clause "too tempting a chance", not just "too tempting". So something like this:

It was ([too tempting a chance] to resist), not this chance was ([too tempting] a chance [to resist]).

But then again, I'm not native, and my brain gets confused a lot.

So my question is, does sentence 1 actually mean the same thing as the sentence 2 (most logical explanation as to the meaning of the sentence 1), or does it mean what I meant in my analysis? And if it does mean the same thing as sentence 2, how can it work like that even when they are separated with another noun in between them?

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    I think you're overthinking this thing. They both mean the same thing. – anongoodnurse Oct 11 '15 at 2:19
  • @medica But how does the sentence 1 mean the same thing as sentence 2? I thought that "too tempting" should be connected to "to resist". – sooeithdk Oct 11 '15 at 2:20
  • @medica For example: Different people from America. People different from America. They mean the different thing, don't they? – sooeithdk Oct 11 '15 at 2:27
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    "It was a chance." The rest is adjectival modification. You can split it up to select the emphasis you want. A chance to resist, too tempting it was. is unnatural in speech, but it still means the same thing, and places a heavy emphasis on the chance and tempting because of the order. It still means the same thing. – anongoodnurse Oct 11 '15 at 2:28
  • I may not have grasped your analysis, but you seem to be saying that (1) could be punctuated as "It was too tempting: a chance to resist." - in other words, the irresistable temptation is to resist (something unspecified). This seems such an unlikely scenario that clarification through punctuation would be the minimum required, and you'd be better off completely rephrasing it. As written, the two sentences have the same meaning. – JHCL Oct 11 '15 at 2:36
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Both sentences have the same meaning. The first construction gives the emphasis on the adjective.

  • Thank you so much. But how does the sentence 1 mean the same thing as sentence 2? I thought that "too tempting" should be connected to "to resist". – sooeithdk Oct 11 '15 at 2:22

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