In Forrest Gump, Forrest says: "I couldn't tell where heaven stopped, and the earth began; it was so beautiful.”

What is the grammar after 'began'? Does a comma or semi-colon indicate a break then a continuation of the same idea or does it indicate that the heaven/earth barrier is one thing and it was so beautiful is separate? In the film he is connecting them so what grammar is correct for this?

  • 3
    I don't get a connecting because at all. The comma is there, to indicate a pause. Aug 3 at 22:31
  • Consider the similar structure: "I saw a mountain, and heard a bird sing; it was so beautiful." Do you think that requires "because" to be grammatical?
    – Stuart F
    Aug 3 at 22:44
  • Consider that somebody else wrote Forrest Gump and didn't do it that way. And it was a very successful book. Why do you think you know better than the author? Aug 4 at 0:34
  • @StuartF, I agree with your example, but that isn't what Forrest is saying. It's the opposite sentence structure, with the second part describing how the first part is true rather than the first clause making the second clause true. In your example, the mountain and bird make it beautiful, but he is saying the beauty causes him not to know where heaven stopped and the earth began.
    – Rob
    Aug 4 at 12:48
  • @JohnLawler If you have the quote from the book, I'd be happy to use it, but I don't. The grammar is different in every quote on the internet and I can't verify a script, so here I am asking.
    – Rob
    Aug 4 at 12:51

1 Answer 1


The cited text is just an example of hyperbaton / stylistic inversion of the more syntactically "standard" version (with optional relativiser that connecting the two clauses)...

It was so beautiful [that] I couldn't tell where heaven stopped, and the earth began.

The comma after stopped is entirely optional, but given there would have been little if any detectable pause there in the actual spoken "original", I wouldn't have included it.

And since the modern trend is to "less, lighter" punctuation, once that unnecessary comma is discarded, imho it becomes much more appropriate (read, "less pretentious") to downgrade the cited semicolon to a comma.

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