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I am not an english speaker and I need some help with a grammar mistake that has up to now costed -4 reputation to me (I am this user posted this question as guest by mistake and cannot actually find the "delete" button).

What actually happened is that I posted this question in which I stated that the following two statements concerning an abortion that took place in 1973

''It never harmed anybody -- it was a dead embryo so the cells back then (were used), instead of being discarded, they were used for research.''

'' ... The kidney of the fetus was, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information...''

where contradictory in the sense that an embryo (=fetus) may be "completely normal" or "dead" but not both.

Then I realised that I had run into some terrible grammatical mistake since I received the following two comments:

"Why exactly do you think one of those two statements has to be false?"

"Completely normal from an aborted from an aborted fetus tends to mean that death was involved. Just because someone dies doesn't mean that their cells are not normal with nothing wrong with them."

I seems that somehow "completely normal" refers to the kidney and not to the fetus itself!

But how can that be?

Probably it is the context that matters so here are the full-texts from which I took these two statements:

The first one was taken from France24:

''It never harmed anybody -- it was a dead embryo so the cells back then (were used), instead of being discarded, they were used for research.''

and the second one from

Alex van der Eb. "USA FDA CTR For Biologics Evaluation and Research Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting" (PDF). Lines 14ā€“22: USFDA. p. 81. Retrieved August 11, 2012.

'' ... The kidney of the fetus was, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information...''

English grammar had never been my best but now it is of vital importance to understand.

Can anyone help me?

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  • In the first sentence, both (were used) and they should be omitted. – Kate Bunting Jan 17 at 9:40
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    What is your question here? There doesn't seem to anything to do with grammar at all. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 at 11:32
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    @DavidHammen That's not the case. Different accounts are fine as long as they are not used to get round the rules. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 at 12:33
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    @grammarq You should be able to delete this question if you register your account. – Andrew Leach Jan 17 at 12:35
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    Iā€™m voting to close this question because it is not about the English language. – Xanne Jan 17 at 21:11
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"an embryo (=fetus) may be "completely normal" or "dead" but not both."

The apparent contradiction is that the embryo was normal and yet it was dead.

Since children that are not normal, that have abnormalities, can be born and survive it is not a contradiction that one that is not alive could still be normal. You are referring to its anatomical condition not its current state of health.

It is not uncommon for people reporting second hand on the writings of physicians or other professionals to make their own interpretations of the findings to suit specific needs. Being able to point to the doctor's "own words" is a great tool for creating trouble where none existed. As such it is important to keep casual language or interpretations out of such professional writing.