In programming languages it is very common to write sentences which would literally translate to:

Take the wrench in the fourth row from the bottom of the shelf of the cupboard, in the bedroom, in my house and place it in trunk of the red car with green lights.

His father's, brother's, aunt's, sister's, child is the friend of my mother's, sister's, aunt's, child.

The above statements are make believe and extreme examples but they get the point across.

My programmer friends have no difficulty parsing sentences like these but other people get totally confused when I do so.

The problem is, it has become so natural for me to use statements like these that I often have no clue how to break these sentences down without literally handing them a checklist in a piece of paper.

What general strategies can be implemented to break down sentences like this into something grammatically correct?

closed as too broad by FumbleFingers, Dan Bron, P. O., RegDwigнt Sep 16 '16 at 14:48

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    The best "general strategy", must surely be to learn English through exposure to the actual language as used by native speakers, not extrapolating its principles from artificially-designed programming languages. – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '16 at 14:18
  • Firstly, all languages are artificially designed. So, basically you are asking me to read more books and talk to people? – Souradeep Nanda Sep 16 '16 at 14:21
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    @Souradeep: You got it! :) But I would point out that your second example illustrates the difference quite clearly, in that you casually invented a non-existent orthographic principle allowing you to include commas to help readers deconstruct your cascade of possessives. That's only credible because you know that real people are going to read your text, and very likely even if we don't find those commas actually helpful, at least they won't prevent us understanding the text. If you did that with a computer language it would just be rejected as "Syntax Error", and not understood. – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '16 at 14:37
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    Try to simplify your writing by splitting the text in smaller sentences and take advntage of the punctuations. For example, The wrench is at home in my bedoom cupboard, in the fourth row from the bottom of the shelf. Take it and place it in the trunk of the red car with green lights. – Graffito Sep 16 '16 at 14:42
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    When talking with programmers, we usually say it the other way. "Go to my house, in the bedroom, bottom of the cupboard shelf, fourth row, get the wrench. Put it in the red car with the green lights, in the trunk." Grammar be damned. Clearly communicated. And we all read XKCD. – William Entriken Dec 7 '16 at 3:14

Use the same solution used in programming.

His father's, brother's, aunt's, sister's, child is the friend of my mother's, sister's, aunt's, child.

Swift translation:

let mary = him.father.brother.aunt.sister.child
let bob = me.mother.sister.aunt.child

Swift refactor:

let hisGreatAunt = him.father.brother.aunt
let mary = hisGreatAunt.sister.child
let myGrandmom = me.mother.sister.mother
let bob = myGrandmom.sister.child

English translation:

Let me tell you about my this guy Bob, so it turns out that his great aunt and my grandmom both have nieces that know each other. This relationship was too distant to run afoul of any nepotism laws, but we did have fun discussing our family trees. This is my maternal grandmom and ...


You know where the bedroom is in my house? There's a cupboard in it with a wrench on the fourth shelf from the bottom. Take that wrench and put it in the trunk of the red car with green lights.

  • But I don't know where your house is! – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '16 at 14:40

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