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In our electron pump, when you turn the crank, one side gets a surplus of electrons, or a negative charge, and on the other side the atoms are missing said electrons, resulting in a positive charge.

The part in a bold font is confusing to me. I can't make grammatical sense of it. One side gets a surplus of electrons and the other side gets the atoms. How does are missing said electrons fit into the rest of the sentence?

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To aid reading, I write this parsed paraphrase: (When you turn the crank...) On one side (of the pump), it gets [a surplus of electrons (which have a negative charge)]. On the other side, the atoms are missing [those surplus electrons (as being mentioned earlier)]. The result: these atoms (which are missing [said electrons]) will have a positive charge. –  Damkerng T. Aug 5 at 1:55
'Said' refers to the clause 'one side gets a surplus of electrons'. It can be substituted with 'those'. All in all though the extract is rather clumsily written which adds to the confusion when parsing it. –  Ian Lewis Aug 5 at 13:34
There are these things called dictionaries, and they even exist on the internet :) Since we know the verb "said" pretty well, and it doesn't look like it's being used as a verb, but rather as an adjective, we arrive at this passage in the link: adjective Chiefly Law. named or mentioned before; aforesaid; aforementioned: said witness; said sum. Regards –  rschwieb Aug 5 at 15:11
Replace "said" with "such" and you'll have no problem understanding it. They mean the same thing. –  Juan Mendes Aug 5 at 19:09
Please remember to check one of the replies as an answer to your question. :) –  Konrad Viltersten Aug 5 at 20:47

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

In our electron pump, when you turn the crank, one side gets a surplus of electrons, or a negative charge, and on the other side the atoms are missing said electrons, resulting in a positive charge.

Said here means which are mentioned earlier in the text, or, simply, these. The sentence could be rephrased thus:

In our electron pump, when you turn the crank, one side gets a surplus of electrons, or a negative charge, and on the other side the atoms are missing these electrons, resulting in a positive charge.

So, as an atom misses an electron (the electron's orbital is empty), it assumes positive charge.

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I liked your answer better before you added the "said electrons" example, which I think might confuse our readers. Anyway, it points out the most important point (said) for the OP. :) –  Damkerng T. Aug 5 at 1:46
Aforementioned should probably be mentioned. –  AbraCadaver Aug 5 at 17:35
A definite article kinda breaks here; every atom in the universe that's not on the negative side of the pump lacks those particular electrons. ("Said" and "aforementioned" suffer from the same issue, though...the flaw is in the text itself, rather than in the explanation of "said".) –  cHao Aug 6 at 5:06
@cHao, it's hard to me as a non-native speaker to feel all the intricacies of article usage. Does 'the atoms' really imply all atoms in the Universe? What's the alternative? Some? Or the zero article? –  CopperKettle Aug 6 at 5:40
In that text, "the atoms" specifically refers to the atoms on the positive side. But the rest of the universe doesn't have those particular electrons either, so that isn't sufficient to explain the positive charge. One could use an indefinite article like some (or no article at all) to indicate an actual deficit -- or better, say some of their to clarify that those "surplus" electrons used to be on the positive side. Otherwise their absence doesn't mean much. –  cHao Aug 6 at 13:41

I think you have misunderstood the big picture. BOTH sides of the pump have atoms both before and after. Before the "crank is turned", every atom has exactly the right number of electrons. Afterwards, one side has extra electrons and the other side has fewer electrons.

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I had problems with that particular word as well until I learned to add in my head "...the XXX that we have said something about previously...".

"the atoms are missing said electrons"


"the atoms are missing the electrons that we have said something about previously"

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To add to CopperKettle's answer, said is normally only used this way in legal documents. (For instance in a police report or a contract.) Sometimes people use it in normal, non-legal writing too. I guess they do that for humorous effect. There's no need to use it that way yourself.

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It's a normal, slightly more formal way one can use to express himself. It has nothing to do with getting a humerous effect.I often come accross that expression in scientific texts or simple program/api documentations. It's not that rare and not only restricted to legal documents. –  Polygnome Aug 5 at 9:00
I disagree strongly; it's a very normal thing to say/write amongst native English users, and can be used freely as it's very well understood. There is no problem whatsoever using it that way yourself as it can be a very useful shorthand. –  Poldie Aug 5 at 11:45
@Polygnome, Poldie, see oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/said . Also Merriam-webster's Dictionary of English Usage says much the same thing except that they say that adjective said is also used in business contexts. –  Dangph Aug 5 at 11:59
Note, of course, that even if it's less common with the forms say and said, it's a very common construction in general: "We paint half of the chairs. We sell painted chairs to furniture stores, and the rest to people that paint their own chairs." The difference, of course, is that in mentioning electrons earlier in the sentence, we literally said (or, if not literally, wrote) "electrons". In the later sentence, we can refer to them as "the electrons that we said something about earlier", or more simply, "said electrons". A more transparent analogy uses "aforementioned". –  Joshua Taylor Aug 5 at 13:00
I use said as an adjective frequently enough, and i'm not writing a legal document or trying to be funny. It's just the right word to use. Yes, it can sound a bit stilted in conversation...but in formal or even semi-formal writing, it's pretty common. (Not just legal documents, but also business letters, term papers, technical docs, answers on SE...) –  cHao Aug 6 at 23:47

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