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If I write, "Destroying forests is a heinous action, a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper.

Does the "if" statement correspond to "a cruel tragedy" only or both "a heinous action and a cruel tragedy."

I am inclined to say "both" noun phrases. In my interpretation, the "comma" after action, is serving to show an example of asyndeton, in other words, the comma is basically replacing an "and". So the that sentence means, "Destroying forests is a heinous action and a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper.

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  • You're on the track that destroying is heinous and tragic, but where is the if? Jul 10 '20 at 15:53
  • I would personally interpret it as suggesting that if trees are not cut for paper that it's no longer necessarily a heinous action—even though that sounds a little odd. More specifically, the entirety of a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper seems to correspond to a heinous action. But the use of the conditional makes it somewhat unusual, and gives it a bizarre interpretation. Far more normal would be the following: Destroying forests to make paper is a heinous action, a cruel tragedy. Jul 10 '20 at 15:55
  • If “if” applies to both "a heinous action and a cruel tragedy”, why not also to “destroying forests”? "Destroying forests is a heinous action, a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper” is not a proper sentence. The phrase might work in two sentences, perhaps "Destroying forests is a heinous action. It is a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper” Does that re-phrasing not show that the “if” applies only to the “cruel tragedy”, not the “heinous action”? Again, "Destroying forests is a heinous action and a cruel tragedy if trees are cut for paper” is not a proper sentence. Jul 12 '20 at 18:39
  • Why is it not a proper sentence? Jul 15 '20 at 7:04

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