Hong Kong is traditionally a sought-after destination for domestic workers because of the relatively high wages offered, a guaranteed rest day once a week and other legal protections not offered in other places. But, says Rohyati, just two weeks into her job as a full-time, live-in maid, her employer's mother slapped her because the elderly woman, who spoke only Cantonese, was frustrated at being unable to communicate. Over the next two months, she says she was slapped, punched and choked by her boss as well. "I don't know why she hit me. At times she seemed to care about my welfare. She would ask if I was comfortable or had enough to eat," said Rohyati. "But she would suddenly turn violent. Maybe she was feeling overworked, or upset about still being single," she recalls from the safety of a shelter run by a charity.


She was told to go back to her previous job that they had provided for her? Is safety of a shelter correct? And why do they say "from"?

What time the does would refer to? A habitual action in the past? That is to say, was it her boss's habit in the past or now to ask if she had been comfortable?

When the girl says her boss that is a single woman and would turn violent, does it mean that there were regular times in the past that her boss had become angry? Or could it mean that her boss still might become angry?

Our assumption is that of course she is still her boss, but when we are talking about past and complete actions in the past, we usually use simple past, as used to or had been. What about the word would?

  • Good question. In storytelling, would is quite commonly used to describe the regular action - he would sit at the river bank whenever sad. From shows the reason of that judgement (OALD #13) I guess. 'Safety of a shelter' is questioning the safety where she took the shelter.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 11:28
  • Would here is equivalent to used to. Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 11:51
  • @MaulikV I agree with your analysis of 'would', but I'm not sure I understand what you're saying "safety of a shelter" means. There is no question there, only that the woman is recalling (remembering and telling) the events from a shelter, which is safe (as opposed to the abusive workplace she's talking about) which is run by a charity (an organization which seeks to help people in need).
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 18:46
  • 2
    @Doc is correct. "she recalls" = she is remembering or recounting the events. "from the safety of a shelter" = she is in a shelter as she is telling her story, which is a safe place for her. "run by a charity" = the shelter is run by a non-profit charity organization.
    – Phil Perry
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 18:56

3 Answers 3


That last line says the following:

  • [she recalls] the girl is remembering this as she is talking
  • [from ... a shelter] she is in a shelter while she is talking
  • [safety] the shelter is a safe place
  • [run by a charity] the shelter is being run by a charity

To recall in this case means remembering something. Since the article reports her words, the verb recall is used here as "remember while talking".

A shelter is a place where one can hide from the weather, or from other people. In this case it is a place where women like this girl can be safe after having been mistreated by their employers.

A charity is an organisation that tries to help people without expecting to get any money from it. In this case, it mean that a well-fare organisation is providing people to take care of the day-to-day business of managing the shelter.

As for the use of would, yes, that indicates a habitual action in the past. It doesn't seem that the girl is still working there, she went to the shelter instead. So whether or not the habitual action continues into the present is not relevant for that girl or for this girl's story.

  • 2
    +1 But, for the sake of clarity, could you add to your answer what each of the bulleted points is derived from in the quote? As in "The girl is remembering this as she is talking" is based on "she recalls", "she is in a shelter while she is talking" is based on "from [...] a shelter", etc. At least define recall (as it has multiple definitions that may cause confusion) and maybe shelter.
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 18:52
  • 1
    Good points, I edited :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 19:17
  • Awesome. I'd give you another +1 if I could for the edit.
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 19:22
  • I'd suggest that a clearer definition of 'she recalls' might be 'the girl is talking about an event that she remembers'. +1 all around, though.
    – Hellion
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 20:30

"Recall" is meaning #1 at this dictionary link: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/recall meaning to bring back from memory.

A "shelter" in this case refers to a refuge for people in unfortunate circumstances; such as a "homeless shelter" or a "shelter for abused women."


The word "would" could be switched with "sometimes", or the phrase "had been known to". The last sentence gives the impression that the character Rohyati left her employment because of the abuse, and went to a charity-run shelter. I imagine that Rohyati herself did not speak Cantonese at all. I suppose that the old woman asked about her welfare hoping Rohyati would stay. No feelings of genuine concern.

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