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I AWOKE WITH NEEDLES in my brain. Thousands of them, biting, blocking out everything. Then they disappeared for one dizzying moment and I got my bearings. It was morning, early; amber sunlight poured in through my bedroom window. I was standing but not on my own strength. Two hands were gripping my throat, and they’d been shaking me. The needles, that was my brain crashing into my skull. I had only a few seconds to wonder why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts. My eyes were open but I saw only white flashes. A few sounds made it through to me. “SLUT!” “WHORE!” Then another sound. Mother. She was crying. “Stop! You’re killing her! Stop!”

I copied this text from another question. The part I don't understand is the structure of why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts. Since I am pretty interested in it, I'd like to ask it as a separate question. Thanks!

  • It would be helpful if you told us what part(s) you don't understand. Basically, there is "(to wonder why) (before the needles returned), (shredding my thoughts)". – user3169 May 17 '18 at 5:35
  • @user3169 why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts doesn't look like a normal clause to me. – dan May 17 '18 at 6:14
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    Because why is part of "to wonder why", as in "I wonder why I am writing this", and not part of the phrase "before the needles". As I separated the phrases using parentheses. – user3169 May 17 '18 at 6:45
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Let's break it down.

First the expression, I wonder why, which is used to phrase certain kinds of questions.

I wonder why the sky is blue?

or in a narrative:

I wondered why they were all shouting -- then I saw the runaway bull heading right at me.

or, in a different way, adding an adverbial clause to establish the time frame.

I had only a few seconds to wonder why they were all shouting, before I saw the runaway bull heading right at me.

In your example, the main part of the sentence is:

I had only a few moments to wonder why (some situation was happening)*

followed by a similar adverbial phrase

before the needles returned (and did something)

I'm not sure what part of speech "shredding my thoughts" is called. Possibly it's a kind of participle phrase modifying "needles", but it seems more like the comma serves as an informal conjunction between the action of returning and the action of shredding.

Here is a more typical example of a participle phrase:

A moment later the bull reared up, snorting like an old locomotive.

Anyway, hope this helps!

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    I think that there is no conjuction there, it's a relation of causality. Let me rephrase: "Her thoughts were shredd by the return of the needles" – RubioRic May 17 '18 at 7:28
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    @RubioRic Yes, or that. I'm sure this kind of thing has a formal linguistic name, but I'm not scholar enough to know what it's called. – Andrew May 17 '18 at 14:59
  • I don't think "I wonder why the sky is blue?" is a question. It's just a statement of uncertainty. – user3169 May 17 '18 at 18:29
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As already stated by @user3169, you have not splitted the sentence correctly.

It's not

I had only a few seconds to wonder why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts

It's

I had only a few seconds to wonder why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts

According to Cambridge Dictionary

to wonder

to ask yourself questions or express a wish to know about something

In your context, she awoke abruptly and she wondered

why does my head ache so bad?

why is my brother beating the crap out of me?

...

She was wondering such things and then suddenly the needles returned. As explained here, "needles" is a metaphor for a kind of pain. She stopped wondering because probably she was being hit again.

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