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“And we believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to have custody of Zoe, to raise her in a warm and stable family situation, to provide her with the kind of upbringing and, well, not to be gauche, but privileges we can provide for her.”

(Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain)

I guess the subject, the best situation, is followed by three complements: (1) to have custody of Zoe, (2) to raise her in a warm and stable family situation, (3) to provide her with the kind of upbringing – for us is common agent for to-clauses. And after and is the second complement for believe. But there are two strangeness for me: (1) what not to be gauche mean? Is it modest expression for the speaker?, (2) If but-clause is really the complement, why does the book adopt but? Is it mean only privileges (they can provide her only with privileges)? Or is but related with the previous phrase, not to be gauche?

  • Yes, to be gauche is an expression of modesty or humility. It's like saying, well not to be crude, but ... – Giambattista Nov 30 '13 at 22:15
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The subject of the sentence is we. It's the subject of the verb believe. The relative pronoun that is functioning as a conjunction that's joining another relative clause.

The subject of that relative clause is this noun clause: best situation for all parties involved, which is the subject of would be.

The clauses are elliptical. They're all using the subject and verbs we believe and the entire relative clause that follows them. I'm not sure that I'd call them complements per se. I suppose they could be considered subject complements though.

There are a couple of ways that this could be written to make this more clear:

We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to have custody of Zoe. We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be [for us] to raise her in a warm and stable family situation. We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be [for us] to provide her with the kind of upbringing and, well, not to be gauche, but privileges we can provide for her.

For us is extraneous because it is implied by the subject/verb we believe, so I've removed it from all but the first clause.

Semi-colons could perhaps make this more clear:

And we believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to have custody of Zoe; to raise her in a warm and stable family situation; [and] to provide her with the kind of upbringing and, well, not to be gauche, but privileges we can provide for her

It could also be read as a bullet point list:

And we believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us:

  1. To have custody of Zoe;

  2. To raise her in a warm and stable family situation;

  3. To provide her with the kind of upbringing and, well, not to be gauche, but privileges we can provide for her.

They're not technically independent clauses because they can't stand on their as written, but they are complete thoughts.

(1) what not to be gauche mean? Is it modest expression for the speaker?

Gauche means crude, crass, coarse, etc.

(2) If but-clause is really the complement, why does the book adopt but?

The tricky part of this is that but is actually the end of the clause. That clause is: well, not to be gauche, but [anyway, as I was saying,]. The text in the brackets is what's being implied.

What's happening is that there is a break in speech between the coordinating conjunction and and the word it's joining with upbringing, which is privileges. the complete thought is:

We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to provide her with the kind of upbringing and privileges [that only] we can provide for her.

The speaker has stopped because they know that what they're about to say may portray them in an unflattering light, but they're determined to say it anyway. It at least makes it seem that they don't mean it that way. What they're actually saying is this:

We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to provide her with the kind of upbringing and, not to be immodest, but, privileges we can provide for her.

Alternatively, you could think of it this way:

We believe that the best situation for all parties involved would be for us to provide her with, well, not to be gauche but, the kind of upbringing and privileges we can provide for her.

Think of the well, not to be gauche, but clause as an appositive.

  • I love the way you "bullet point" it. But I think that you meant to have three bullet points, perhaps? – Damkerng T. Nov 30 '13 at 22:18
  • I didn't mean that one, I think you would agree to split "to have custody ..., to raise ..." into two items. – Damkerng T. Nov 30 '13 at 22:48
  • Yes, sorry, indeed I did mean to have three. That goes to show the value of an independent set of eyes. Strangely, I thought there were supposed to be three when I posted this, and I caught all three in all the other examples, but I glossed over it there. I'll fix it. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. – Giambattista Nov 30 '13 at 22:52

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