"The fine particles of grief which would flow out from the people he sat and listened to and helplessly tried to comfort, seeped inside him and there they had continued to envelop his heart, letting less inside or get outside with each layer that formed on top."

I would like to know if the tenses of "would flow," "seeped," and "had continued" work properly. And aside from grammar, is the sentence too complex, tedious, or long to be emotive?

Thanks to all who would look into it.

  • I can’t understand what this sentence means. How can “grief” be divided into particles, and how can the envelope a heart? This sentence needs to be reduced or divided into three parts in order to be clear. Btw, if you need to ask “is this ok?” it’s usually an indicator that something isn’t ok, and should be scrapped or rewritten from scratch. Mar 22, 2019 at 16:07
  • Emotions aren't exactly solid objects that can be broken down into smaller particles. It's a metaphor. The readers' imagination would make emotions exist as particles, drops, sheets, whatever. If people can imagine the existence of a God then they can surely imagine a much less preposterous existence of particles of grief.
    – PsyPhi
    Mar 25, 2019 at 13:35
  • if you have to explain what your writing means, then the writing wasn’t successful. Stick with images that make sense to your readers. The metaphors should pull people into the story not make them say “huh?” Mar 25, 2019 at 13:38
  • It also means that maybe the reader can't or isn't willing to stretch their imagination to that extent. And I don't have a problem with it. I am not going to baby them by using simple words and sentences. Admittedly, the sentence might be excessive enough that the emotion itself might get lost in the sentence. So making it less complicated could be a necessity, but the metaphor isn't a problem for me.
    – PsyPhi
    Mar 25, 2019 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Since sat is not a transitive verb here, the sentence is lacking a prepositional phrase if we're strict about it.

... sat beside and listened to

or something like that. But if you give the author the artistic license to treat the verb as "sit-and-listen-to" then it's grammatical; it is an often-used colloquialism.

The people I sit and listen to all say the same thing: it costs too much.

or compare:

The people I go and visit were not at home.

The drivers of the delivery vans the kids run and jump on curse "the little bastards".

The sequence you ask about is fine.

The fine particles ... seeped inside him
and there they had continued to envelop his heart

The relative clause "which would flow ...." is not relevant to that sequence.

P.S. I did find this a little jarring:

... letting less inside or [less] get outside

since "inside" and "get outside" are not quite parallel structures.

  • Thank you for your comments on the grammar. About the phrase, it was meant to be as "letting less (come) inside or (letting less) get outside." It's fine in that case right?
    – PsyPhi
    Mar 20, 2019 at 19:39
  • It's not ungrammatical even as is, just a stylistic judgment. It would read more smoothly IMO if you didn't omit the verb "come" or if you did omit the verb "get".
    – TimR
    Mar 20, 2019 at 19:45
  • I just didn't add anything before 'inside' because I wanted it to have a little poetic effect and not be very straight forward.
    – PsyPhi
    Mar 20, 2019 at 19:48
  • Not sure why you'd be aiming to be other than straightforward when you're presenting an extended metaphor of sedimentary seepage.
    – TimR
    Mar 20, 2019 at 19:51
  • Then it would be even more straightforward if I would describe what is not coming inside or getting outside; it's not the grief, which keeps getting in.
    – PsyPhi
    Mar 20, 2019 at 20:00

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