I need some sort of formal rules-of-english assistance on the interpretation of the following statement (taken from RPG rules and simplified).

When you hit a creature with this weapon, you can expend a spell slot to deal additional damage, and you can reduce the creature's speed to 0 feet until the end of your next turn.

Specifically, it is my understanding by the rules of grammar that the "you can reduce the creatures speed..." and the "you can expend a spell slot..." phrases would be the two phrases joined by the conjunction, but I can't find any sort of formal reference to back that up. In particular, this has to do with whether or not spending the spell slot is necessary for the move reduction.

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    The word creature's needs that apostrophe to show it is that one's speed. – Yosef Baskin Feb 14 '17 at 17:02
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    Logically, you have a point. As written, the word and connects two unrelated equals: you can do this, and you can do that. But logically, you can reduce the speed only if you expend a spell slot. So the words and you can reduce should be replaced with "which will reduce..." to show the reduced speed is the result of the spell slot. – Yosef Baskin Feb 14 '17 at 17:33
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    @YosefBaskin, there's an option that your interpretation misses. You CAN do it, but you don't have to. – THiebert Feb 14 '17 at 17:47
  • @YosefBaskin - you seem to be saying that the statement should be rewritten to follow the meaning that you think it has. I'm asking purely as a matter of grammar here. Is the sentence above bad grammar? (I don't think it is.) If it is not, what does it mean? If its not bad grammar, it shouldn't need to be rewritten. – Ben Barden Feb 14 '17 at 18:34
  • My mistake to presume you were asking how to interpret clauses. My intent was neither to criticize nor to insist that the sentence has to be written my way. Still, a sentence may be right in its grammar and yet confusing (if it has three ways to interpret it). I do not conclude that good grammar guarantees a clear and sensible statement. After all, you wrote that the piece was taken from RPG rules and simplified. – Yosef Baskin Feb 14 '17 at 20:30

The commas appear to be very significant in resolving the conditional relationships in this sentence.

Putting a comma after When you hit a creature with this weapon implies that it's not a condition only on the immediately following clause, but all the remaining clauses.

And the comma between the the clauses about expending a spell slot and reducing the creature's speed sugggests that they are independent actions. Without a qualifier like "therefore", there's no causal or dependency relationship between them implied.

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  • Does the "you can"/"you can" parallel specifically support this? I had been under the impression that it did, but could not find clear rules supporting it. – Ben Barden Feb 14 '17 at 20:47
  • Consider a similar construct: When you have an umbrella, you can protect yourself from the rain, and you can use it for shade. These are obviously independent abilities. – Barmar Feb 14 '17 at 20:57

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