"You may want to use 20 squares of paper with the statement numbers on them to shuffle into appropriate piles "

What shuffles into piles? "You"or "paper" or "statement numbers"? Can you explain why? Please try to make it simple and straightforward.

  • Please explain the context. The squares of paper would be shuffled but I need more information to explain
    – Jacob R.
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 6:06
  • 1
    In English or any other language, *statement numbers" themselves (without being committed to paper) can't be shuffled into piles any more than can words or thoughts. The squares of paper are the only things here which can be put into piles (by shuffling or any other means) and the only possible agent of this action is the second person pronoun: you. So: you do the shuffling of the squares of paper. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:03
  • So how can you figure out which one the action is done to and by whom without kind of deducing with logic.
    – HUN
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:30
  • Logic is a reliable guide, since all languages have evolved to communicate ideas in a way that conforms to natural logic. However, grammatical analysis is also useful. The subject of the sentence is you. Therefore you is the actor. The analysis is easier if you omit the descriptive clauses of paper and with the statement numbers on them. This leaves: You may want to use 20 squares to shuffle into appropriate piles. Can you parse that sentence? How about: You may shuffle 20 squares into appropriate piles? (The sentence is very badly written!) Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:39
  • You parsing makes a lot more sense to me and it's a lot of clearer. But I wonder if the original sentence is grammatically wrong.
    – HUN
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 12:41

2 Answers 2


This is a poorly written sentence. You don't use paper squares to shuffle; you shuffle paper squares.

My guess (using the same reasoning as P.E. Dant in the comments) is that the author was trying to express the concept that you may want to perform the following actions in sequence:

  1. create 20 squares of paper,
  2. write statement numbers on them,
  3. shuffle them,
  4. divide them into appropriate piles

[The fourth one is implied, since "shuffling" means to place in random order; you don't shuffle into different piles.]

Unfortunately, the author tried to merge all elements of the sequence into a single phrase. The result was confusing and, technically, incorrect.


The object of shuffle is usually a deck of cards or something that works like a deck of cards, but can also mean to scramble the order of.

Shuffle with a person as an object would mean to forcibly move a person to a random spot in line, unless he/she is made of cards (even then I don't know what that would actually mean). It would be extraordinarily unusual to command someone to shuffle themselves, so I'm very certain this isn't what is meant.

Shuffling numbers has a flavor of embezzlement, e.g. an accountant shifting around numbers to make things look better. I doubt the sentence means this since the context doesn't seem to strongly suggest this could be something happening. There is a also a possibility the context could be programming, i.e. statement numbers in a program, in which case I would doubt this is what's going to be shuffled as programs must be executed in their original order to work properly.

Squares of paper seems similar to cards and cards are definitely something that can be shuffled. So I'm certain that's what is meant unless surrounding context contradicts this.

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