Why is this sentence written this way? Is the first one a grammatically correct sentence? Or is it some style?

I felt her tilt her head back to look at me, not that she would have seen anything in the dark.

and not this way

I felt that she tilted her head back to look at me, not that she would have seen anything in the dark.

2 Answers 2


Side note: I think you forgot the word "not" at the beginning of the second clause of the second sentence. I'll assume that, anyway.

The two sentences mean different things. The word "felt" or "feel" in English can have two very different meanings. One, it can mean that you sensed something physically. Like, "I felt his hand on my shoulder" or "When I stepped out in the rain I felt very cold." Two, it can mean that you had an opinion. Like, "I felt that President Jones did a good job while in office" or "I felt that Sally was likely to win the science fair."

My first impression of the first sentence is that it has meaning number one. "I felt her tilt her head back" sounds to me like you are saying that your hand was on her head and you could feel her tilting her head, or perhaps that when she tilted her head back she bumped into your shoulder, or some such.

The second sentence sounds like it's expressing an opinion. It is my opinion that the reason why she tilted her head back was to look at me.

The word "that" makes the difference. When we are talking about an opinion, we generally say "felt that" or "feel that". "I feel that this is a good idea." When we are talking about a physical sensation, we usually don't use that. "I feel cold", "I feel tired", etc.

But it's not that simple, unfortunately. Often we decide which is meant based on context. If you said, "I feel Sally is going to win the science fair", well obviously winning a contest is not something that you would normally determine by physical contact, so a reader would assume you meant to express an opinion. "I feel that it is cold today" is odd wording, but I think people would take it to refer to the physical sensation. But then, "I feel that it will be cold" is clearly an opinion and not a sensation. Arggh, language can be complicated!

  • But is it correct to say like that sentence:"I thought her drop her cup down".
    – Boyep
    Apr 16, 2020 at 21:26
  • Just unusual sentence, this "her" before "tilt" is unclear to me how to make a sentence similar to this one, what should I be based on?
    – Boyep
    Apr 16, 2020 at 21:44
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    "I felt (her tilt her head)", where the part in brackets is the action the speaker became aware of. Similarly, "I saw her raise her hand", "I heard her lower her voice". Apr 17, 2020 at 8:55
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    If you mean 'does it work with thought?' - no, it doesn't. It only works with verbs which describe becoming aware of something through the physical senses. You would have to say 'I thought [that] she had dropped her cup.' Apr 17, 2020 at 15:48
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    RE "I thought her drop her cup down." No. You could say "I saw her drop her cup" or "I heard her drop her cup". But for "thought" you can't follow with the action immediately like that. You could say, "I thought, 'She dropped her cup'." Or, "I thought that she dropped her cup".
    – Jay
    Apr 17, 2020 at 16:33

Both are correct but the first is likely considered better as it eliminates the unnecessary "that".

  • is it correct to say this?: I thought her drop her cup down.
    – Boyep
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:10
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    No, can you reword what you're trying to say? Did you mean 'felt', rather than 'thought'?
    – iceburger
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:13
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    The verb "thought" is different from "throw". "Throw" is direct. But when we're talking about people, "thought" is not direct. You don't "think a person do something" <- incorrect. Rather, you "think (that) a person does something". So the second is wrong for that reason.
    – iceburger
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:26
  • Generally speaking, I see such a sentence for the first time, I just don't understand why is "her" written before "tilt", is "tilt" a noun here or verb? it's just an unusual sentence for me. Maybe you can explain it to me,
    – Boyep
    Apr 16, 2020 at 18:42
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    her refers to the person that is tilting their head. "tilt" is a verb here. But I agree that is is an unuasually worded sentence. Apr 16, 2020 at 19:48

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