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This is taken from The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

Kyle had been born four years to the day after her mother had died.

Here "her mother" refers to "Kyle's mother's mother".

I have problem understanding the meaning of this sentence. Does it mean "Kyle had been born after four years on the same day when Kyle's mother's mother died"?

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Kyle's granny died on Jan 1, 1950 and Kyle was born on Jan 1, 1954 :P As a side note, if I were the author, I'd certainly use a cute little word was born –  Maulik V Jun 19 at 12:35
@MaulikV Thank you... –  Man_From_India Jun 19 at 12:36
You can understand it like this: "Kyle had been born [DATE]," where DATE = [four years to the day (after) her mother had died]. –  Damkerng T. Jun 19 at 12:40
@MaulikV: the verb tense would depend entirely on the context. There is a good chance that the author had good reasons to use the past perfect here :) –  oerkelens Jun 19 at 12:41
I really don't like the use of "her" here (out of context). It relies heavily on the assumption that Kyle is a man's name (which is the only thing keeping "her" from referring to Kyle). Without that, the immediate implications would be that (a) Kyle is a woman, and (b) Kyle's mother is undead. :P –  cHao Jun 19 at 17:02

2 Answers 2

The date of Kyle's birth was exactly four years after the date of her grandmother's death: the same month and day-of-the-month.

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As I commented on the other answer, that's not quite "exactly"; it's specifying a precision. "four years to the day after" says "same month and day of month" (as you said), but not necessarily "same hour", whereas "four years to the hour after" would. –  Joshua Taylor Jun 19 at 14:54
@JoshuaTaylor For legal purposes, a person's birthday is considered to be from 00:00 at the start of the date on which they were born until 24:00 at the end of it, regardless of the time at which they were born. Any greater precision than that would almost certainly warrant clarification in the context. –  ClickRick Jun 19 at 19:03
@ClickRick Sure, in the context of birthdates, there's no need to be (or to expect) any more precision than that. My point was that "n <UnitA> to the <UnitB>" doesn't mean "exactly n <UnitA>", it means "the difference is n <UnitA> modulo <UnitB>." –  Joshua Taylor Jun 19 at 19:10

Yes, to the day means exactly. (as in exactly the same date). To the hour would be even more precise.

When we say that something happened four years after something else, we usually don't mean it very exactly (it happened four years after something else, might mean roughly anywhere between 32 and 54 months...).

To stress that the date it happened was also the same (or at least very close!), one can use to the day.

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nit pick: "to the day" doesn't mean "exactly", it's specifying the precision. "four years to the day after" means "the same month and day, four years later", but not necessarily "the same month, day, and hour" four years later, whereas "four years to the hour after" would. –  Joshua Taylor Jun 19 at 14:53
You are right, I added a bit more detail. That will teach me to simply quote a dictionary! But we are not going into minutes and seconds now, are we? –  oerkelens Jun 19 at 15:02

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