I am grappling with a sentence here, which is rather poetic in nature and is way beyond my intuitive knowledge of English. Please help!

"From three attempts a single one affirmed the chance for success."

The contextual meaning is that there were three attempts made and only one of them was successful. It was successful because the chance was affirmed.

Is the sentence in question grammatically correct? Or can it be rephrased for compactness: "A single of three attempts affirmed the chance for success."

Thank you!

  • 3
    The clearest formulation I can think of is "One of three attempts succeeded." To me, "affirmed the chance" sounds unnatural and doesn't add to the meaning. – Andreas Blass Jul 14 '18 at 1:43
  • Are you saying that the attempts were experimental or practice attempts? If so then the idea that only one of them confirmed the chance of success makes sense. I'm thinking that a free runner could measure out the width of an alley in a car park and try to jump the distance three times. If he only cleared the distance once then that would confirm that it was possible to jump from the roof of the building on one side of the real alley to that of the building on the other side but that there was a two in three chance of his falling to his death. – BoldBen Aug 9 '19 at 8:05
  • Please don't be misled by any misinterpretation of "affirmed". That attempt was certainly not successful "because the chance was affirmed…" nor anything like that. On the contrary, the fact that the attempt was successful "affirmed" something about the conditions of the attempt. Is that difference clear? – Robbie Goodwin Feb 6 at 22:14

"From three attempts a single one affirmed the chance for success."

The sentence is grammatically sound, but semantically a little confusing.

I wouldn't use single here, as a single one suggests a rare outlier amongst many, not just one of three. Also, it is not success that is affirmed, but rather the chance of success. My interpretation and rephrasing of the sentence would be:

"One of three attempts proved success was possible."


'affirmed' is more of a declaration, but the declarer is an abstract noun: 'attempt', so isn't logical. A better word would be 'guaranteed' if the chance of success is definite, or 'offered' if it is not. 'chance of' is redundant.

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