I was reading an article from The New Yorker and I came across one sentence that I couldn't really understand.

The map runs to sixteen laminated foolscap pages, or about ten square feet, when I tile the pages together. I have been given it on the condition that I do not pass it on. It is not like any map I have ever seen, and I have seen some strange maps in my time.

Is there anybody that could help me to explain/rephrase the second sentence so that the structure or the meaning could be more lucid to understand?

Here's the link for the original article. https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/the-invisible-city-beneath-paris

  • 4
    I'm not sure what your problem with this sentence is. It seems to only use standard English. Do you not understand "I have been given it" or "on the condition", or "pass it on". Perhaps you could say what you think this means how you understood it and why you are unsure.
    – James K
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 15:55
  • Oh I wasn't realized what the "it" refers to, now I get it.
    – Sihao Gao
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 4:22

2 Answers 2


I have been given it on the condition that I do not pass it on.

The person who gave the author the map made the author agree to a condition. The condition is that the author of the article cannot pass the map on to other people (give it to other people.)

"On (the) condition that" is a set phrase meaning something happens only if a condition is met.

Merriam Webster:

only if

She spoke on the condition that she not be identified.
He taught me the trick on condition that I never tell anyone else how to do it.

  • Wow, that downvote was quick! Three seconds I reckon. I bet it sets a record.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 15:27
  • 2
    I can't see any justification for downvoting either the question or this answer, so I've upvoted both to negate the efforts of the driveby troll (who the system might ban soon anyway, in which case your lost points will presumably be restored! :) Commented May 25, 2019 at 16:17
  • @FumbleFingers Neither can I, so I've upvoted them both as well. Particularly as 4 years later the downvotes still seem to be in place so the troll is still out there. Commented May 8, 2023 at 1:25

I shouldn‘t wonder if OP‘s problem was the following - please bear with me if I am mistaken: The English language has two ways of turning a sentence into the passive voice. "Someone has given it to me" becomes either "It has been given to me" or "I have been given it"; it is either the direct object or the indirect object that becomes the subject of the passive-voice sentence. In my language, as well as in some languages that I know, and I believe in the OP‘s language, too, only the first example is possible. From my language’s point of view, the second example makes no sense, and I believe that is why OP couldn‘t make sense of it either.


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