I'm looking at a line from the song "I Can See Clearly Now". It's the line: Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

I know that that line is in the passive voice ("the dark clouds that had me blind are gone"), but rearranged with poetic liberty to emphasize "gone". But what's really bothering me is the "had me blind" part.

I'm trying to explain what's happening there. Which do you think is correct?

  1. It's rearranged from a past-perfect tense, and the past participle was dropped ("The dark clouds that had blinded me")
  2. "Had" holds the meaning of "made" ("The dark clouds that made me blind")
  3. Something else I haven't thought of

Thanks for the help in advance! I appreciate it!

  • 2
    Your initial premise is not correct here: there is no passive in the sentence. You can think of had as being similar to kept here: the clouds kept the singer blind (that is, in a state of blindness). Similar to made, except referring to a state. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 26 '19 at 7:40

I think your second theory is best: you can substitute 'made' for 'had'. If my daughter arrived home late I might say, "You had me worried," meaning "you made me worried" or "you worried me". Janus Bahs Jacquet's suggestion of 'kept' is also good when, as he says, it refers to a state.

But when we say "she had me guessing", or, of a sad film, "it had me sobbing", you can't simply substitute either. "She made me guess" and "It made me sob" would be better substitutions. In another common usage, "It had me on the edge of my seat", (meaning "The suspense was almost unbearable") it's hard to find any usable substitution, neither "put" nor "held" being quite right.

Although it's a very common expression I haven't been able to find its first appearance. It may derive from 'to have someone at a disadvantage'. Which - to my surprise - doesn't occur in Don Quixote but which Charles Dickens uses no less than three times in Barnaby Rudge (1840-1)

In The Scarlet Pimpernell [1905] we read:

Sir Percy Blakeney wrenched the weapon from his enemy's grasp.

The position now was one which would have made even a braver man than Chauvelin quake. He stood alone and unarmed in face of an enemy from whom he could expect no mercy.[...]

"You have me at a disadvantage, Sir Percy," he said, speaking every whit as coolly as his foe.

  • @jennivier Not what you were hoping for? – Old Brixtonian Oct 2 '19 at 20:26
  • 'I think your second theory is best' shows that you think there is no definitive answer here. Song lyric interpretation is almost always off-topic as primarily opinion-based / non-standard usage. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 26 '19 at 18:05

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.