So in this sentence "He couldn’t hear her voice above the noise.", does "above the noise" describe "her voice"? if so, how come "he couldn't hear her voice".

Shouldn't he be able to hear the voice since voice is louder than noise, or "above the noise" describe something else?

Let me elaborate a bit, so these are two examples from dictionary

  1. "he seldom spoke above a whisper"
  2. "the doorbell went unheard above the din"

And quite obviously, in first sentence, the volume of "he spoke" is higher than of "whisper"; in second sentence, the volume of "din" is higher than of "doorbell".

but how does this make sense grammatically?

can the "above" be a bi-directional preposition?

1 Answer 1


There are two separate things: her voice and the noise of something else.

For instance:

He couldn't hear her voice above the noise of the car alarm.
He couldn't hear her voice above the noise of the dance club music.

In short, whatever the other noise is, it's so much louder than her speech that he can't make out her words—or even, seeing the movement of her mouth aside, hear her in any way.

No doubt the sentence doesn't stand on its own, and it's made clear either before or after what the source of the noise is.

  • I am not sure you answered what I asked? I added some more explanation about what confused me. Or maybe I just don't understand your answer. Aug 6, 2019 at 4:55
  • 1
    @aggressionexp You have it reversed in all of your interpretations. The noise is louder than the voice and the din is louder than the doorbell. Which is what I've said in my answer—explaining that there are two different things and which is louder than which. Aug 6, 2019 at 6:02

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