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In a reading in class, there is a sentence with some debate around it.

He had been bleeding from his mouth and his neck, and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.

Some of my classmates take this to mean that the subject was bleeding from the neck and mouth, and that the shirt is stained red. It is my opinion that this means he was bleeding from the mouth, and his neck and shirt were stained red. Which is correct?

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    Where did this sentence come from? Because "the front of his shirt were stained" sounds like the origin of the problem. I would expect the sentence to say that the front of his shirt was stained red, but were is for two or more things, which might be why you think it should be his neck and shirt.
    – stangdon
    Oct 11, 2017 at 11:29
  • @stangdon: Wow, you're right! And I didn't even notice that "were".
    – zipirovich
    Oct 11, 2017 at 11:50
  • The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst
    – worldsmith
    Oct 11, 2017 at 16:12

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Your classmates are correct. The difference between your interpretation and theirs is conveyed by commas (of all things!). And apparently you intuitively feel this difference yourself — notice how you put commas when you typed your interpretation! It would've been the same way in the original sentence too in order to have the same meaning as in your interpretation:

He had been bleeding from his mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.

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