So I read the following sentence from The Interpretation of Dreams and I cannot understand the grammatical structure of the following sentence:

But of course I have been unable to resist the temptation to take the sting out of many an indiscretion by omitting or substituting certain material.

To me, everything after "many" seems redundant as "many" serves as the object of the verb phrase "take the sting out of". I suspect there is a parallel to be drawn with verbs like "give" where one would consecutively supply two nouns to describe two different objects involved in an action.

  • 1
    There hasn't been any reference to "indiscretions" before the word 'many'. And no explanation of what the temptation is (to omit references to indiscretions) until after 'many'. I'm not sure where you see as redundant when the phrases add absolutely vital information about what the sentence says. – Tom22 Jul 7 '17 at 1:43
  • Hi @Tom22, thank you for your reply. I am not saying that they are semantically redundant; rather, I am having trouble mapping words to their roles in the overall grammatical structure in the sentence. Is this an example of apposition? Or can you provide me with an example of similar usage of verbs involving placing two nouns side by side after a verb so that I can have an intuition of the underlying grammar? – tjinio Jul 7 '17 at 1:58
  • Are you parsing “many an indiscretion” as the noun phrase? – Jim Jul 7 '17 at 2:06
  • I think that everything after "temptation" is a 'restrictive relative clause" telling us necessary information about the temptation. That clause in turn has it's own "relative adverbial clause" giving necessary information about how "to take the sting out" . Temptation to do X by Y. X = 'take the sting out of many an indiscretion' Y = "by omitting certain material" – Tom22 Jul 7 '17 at 2:08
  • BTW, I'd be happy if anyone else wanted to elaborate on(or correct) what I tried to say as a full answer double checking and taking the time to reference the grammatical terms. – Tom22 Jul 7 '17 at 2:15

Your difficulty seems to be with the idiom "many a + singular noun", which is roughly identical to "many + plural noun"; see Usage of "many" vs "many a"?.

Perhaps the sentence would immediately make sense, if we converted that idiom into the ordinary equivalent and added a comma for good measure:

But of course I have been unable to resist the temptation to take the sting out of many indiscretions, by omitting or substituting certain material.

In my humble opinion, the translator could have done a better job here. (If you give us the chapter and the location in the chapter, perhaps we could have a look at the German original).

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.