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We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.

I understand the meaning of this sentence, but its structure confuse me because I am not a native speaker.

I know 'we don't need' describe 'things', so the first 'we' and the second 'we' can merge into one sentence, We needn't buy things with money.

but the remaining part I don't know how to deal with.

  • No, your paraphrase does not mean the same thing at all. We buy things we don't need (luxuries) with money we don't have (borrowed money) to impress people who are not our real friends. – Kate Bunting Jan 3 at 12:55
  • This is from a song, isn't it? You should say where you found this excerpt. It's also missing a few commas (,) or full stops (.) which would help disambiguate the meaning. Google: The quote comes from the movie "Fight club" – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 at 12:59
  • @Mari-LouA I think the quote doesn't need any further punctuation. Though adding punctuation brings up a second possible parsing: "We buy things we don't need with money. We don't have to impress people we don't like." That conveys something quite different from the original. – Lawrence Jan 3 at 13:10
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    Gramatically it's a main clause with three relative clauses. Main clause: We buy things with money (in order) to impress people. First relative clause referring to things: we don't need. Second relative clause referring to money: we don't have. Third relative clause referring to people: we don't like. With all three relative clauses, the relative pronouns are omitted. The sentence can be seen as grammatically OK but I support Mari-Lou's view that it's missing punctuation (for a better reading). Without a comma between 'have' and 'to' one can understand erroneously 'have to' (=must). – Ben A. Jan 3 at 15:34
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    Sorry, '(in order) to impress people' is of course not a part of the main clause. It's a subordinate clause. So, more precisely: We have here a main clause with two relative clauses and a subordinate clause with one realtive clause. – Ben A. Jan 3 at 15:38
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Gramatically it's a main clause (MC) with a subordinate clause (SC). The main clause has two relative clauses (RC1, RC2) - the subordinate clause only one (RC3). All relative clauses are based on additonal information (AI1, AI2, AI3).

MC : We buy things with money...
SC : ...(in order) to impress people.
AI1: We don't need the things (mentioned in MC).
AI2: We don't have the money (mentioned in MC).
AI3: We don't like the people (mentioned in SC).

MC+RC1+RC2+SC+RC3:
We buy things we don't need with money we don't have (in order) to impress people we don't like.

With all three relative clauses, the relative pronouns are omitted.

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    Let's not forget that the line is a little busy on purpose, for the desired rat-a-tat quality. – Yosef Baskin Jan 3 at 18:02
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We buy A with B (in order) to impress C, where

  • A = things (that) we do not need
  • B = money (that) we do not have
  • C = people (whom) we do not like.
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