In this sentence:

She did not want to meet Lettuce. That was a rare feeling for her; she would usually never avoid anybody, but Lettuce was somehow different. Was it just dislike, or was it something different - a wariness born of the knowledge that he did not like her and would be perfectly happy to harm her interests - such as they were?

What does "such as they were" mean? What does "they" refer to, "her interests", then why using the dashes?


2 Answers 2


From Lexico

such as it is (also such as they are)


What little there is; for what it's worth.

‘the plot, such as it is, takes road movie form’

‘The tax cut, such as it is, was certainly still worth doing, experts say.’

‘So I had to take my career and talents, such as they are, elsewhere.’

The they does refer to her interests.

For the first en-dash, this is equivalent to a comma separating two noun phrases in apposition a wariness... and something different.

As for the second en-dash, it is used before such as they were because this is a supplement to the sentence, a side note not tightly integrated into the meaning or structure of the sentence. In speech it would be marked by a pause or change in tone to communicate that the information added is parenthetical.

The use of the two en-dashes is not connected in any way - they have separate functions in the sentence.

  • Thanks. so can the second en-dash be replaced with a comma?
    – Harry Che
    Jun 15, 2020 at 17:52
  • That would probably have been the better choice to avoid confusion.
    – DW256
    Jun 16, 2020 at 11:47

The expression "such as they are/were" is often used to mean the speaker thinks some things have little importance. In this passage, where "she" is describing her own feelings, it means that her own interests are not important.

I think the dash is used instead of a comma to make the next phrase stand out as a separate thought. "She" thinks Lettuce would harm her interests, then she thinks that her own interests are not very important anyway.

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