I came across this sentence -

Although his (Nirmal) detainment (in prison) lasted only a day or two, the experience had a profoundly unsettling effect on Nirmal, following as it did on his rejection by Nilimas's (Nirmal's wife) family and his separation from his own.

I can't understand the meaning of "following as it did". I want to know about the usage and analysis of this wording. I understood the meaning that Nirmal's stay in prison had a great impact on his life, following his separation from both the family.


The expression as SUBJ AUX (AUX being a finite form of any auxiliary verb) has two broad uses:

  1. To inform the reader that a ‘hypothetical’ event in fact has the degree of reality expressed by AUX:

    If the committee finds your application inadequate, as it may, it will ask for more information. — This is approximately equivalent to The committee may find your application inadequate; if they do, they will ask for more information.

    When the seal is broken, as yours was, the red post pops up. This is approximately equivalent to Your seal was broken; in this circumstance, the red post pops up.

  2. To disambiguate a potentially ambiguous expression. That’s what is in play in your example. Lacking the phrase as it did, the phrase following his rejection ... would probably be parsed as modifying the entire preceding clause and would be understood to imply that it was the unsettling effect which followed the rejection. The phrase as it did sets the subjects of the two clauses, experience and it, in parallel; we understand from this that it was because the experience followed the rejection that the experience had an unsettling effect.

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  • As for your second point, if in my original sentence "as it did" was omitted and only "...following his rejection ...." was there then also it would mean the same thing. Now what meaning "as it did" adds on to this sentence? – Man_From_India Feb 18 '14 at 7:38
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    @Man_From_India Without "as it did" the following phrase is merely a temporal reference point. With "as it did" the phrase is identified as contributing to the unsettling effect: detainment was unsettling because it followed rejection and separation. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 18 '14 at 12:51
  • I am afraid I didn't understand it properly. I believe this sentence means this - "he was detained in custody. It is for very little time, one or two days at max. But it's effect was huge. Following his detainment he was rejected from family." – Man_From_India Feb 18 '14 at 12:52

"following as it did" means that the effect of the detainment was enhanced by the prior bad experiences. To use another example from today, "Breaking a nail is normally an nuisance, but following as it did upon the cats throwing up, discovering an ice dam leak in the garage and bedroom, and needing to get bloodwork done during a snowstorm, it nearly made me cry."

E.g., here are all the things that happened before I broke my nail. The cumulative effect of all those made the nail-breakage more traumatic than normal.

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  • Do you want to say "enhanced" or "made more unsettling"? – Ben Kovitz Feb 9 '15 at 23:13
  • To enhance something is to make it more whatever-it-is. Creepy music enhances the scary mood of a horror movie. Nice perfume enhances the beauty of the flower. See dictionary.reference.com/browse/enhance?s=t . I'm using "enhance" exactly as I intended. :) – A.Beth Feb 10 '15 at 4:50
  • Enhanced's meaning of "intensify" has plenty of established usage, but I'm thinking it's confusing to a reader, especially an EFL learner, because the primary meaning of enhance is to "make better", or at least it carries "improvement" as a strong connotation. For example, what does it mean to enhance a bad kitchen? Or to enhance a detainment? Or its effect? Anyway, replacing "enhanced" with something else is just a suggestion to make the answer clearer. – Ben Kovitz Feb 10 '15 at 9:29
  • By this time, hopefully the comments have elaborated on the possible meanings. ;) – A.Beth Feb 11 '15 at 2:39

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