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I stumbled upon a sentence in something Christopher Hitchens wrote eons ago. But I am iffy about its grammaticality.

And many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder, quite probably just as many as have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit.

I am not sure the use of "as many as" here makes the sentence grammatical, because there isn't a pronoun or noun phrase following the phrase, which seems to be an ellipsis. I thought I'd write the sentence as:

And many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder ; quite probably just as many have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit.

or

And many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder, quite probably just as many as those that have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit.

Am I wrong?

  • There is no justification for the semicolon here. A colon or even better a dash would be fine. The comma works. It could be argued that everything after 'murder' is a parenthetical, with the usual punctuation options (single comma, single dash, pair of brackets) (but not zero punctuation in this case) available. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 16 '17 at 10:08
  • As many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder, as have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit. – Nigel J Nov 16 '17 at 14:22
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I would interpret the sentence as follows:

And many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder, quite probably just as many [murderers have been reprived because they were condemned for the wrong murder] as have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit.

Looking at it, I think some people would say this is a "comma splice", but the question is not about punctuation. The sentence seems grammatical to me with the original wording.

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