She doesn't remember reading such a text before.

Does this sentence mean?

She doesn't remember when/the time she's ever read such a text before.

Or something else?

Since the adverb "before" is awkwardly used here, I'll have to ask this question.

I would omit the needless "before" in the sentence.

Besides, I could add empathic meaning to the sentence:

She cannot remember reading/having read such a text.

  • 1
    You missed a possible interpretation: This is the first time she remembers reading such a text. (Or: At no time before now has she remembered reading such a text.) In short, before could apply to her memory rather than to her reading. It's ambiguous. Apr 25, 2020 at 4:31
  • So, the sentence in the title is ambiguous?
    – Alex TheBN
    Apr 25, 2020 at 10:08
  • 1
    It can be ambiguous. I think most people would interpret it as you did. I was just mentioning another way it could be read. Apr 25, 2020 at 12:28
  • 1
    @JasonBassford in what circumstances is it not ambiguous? That it can be read in more than one way means that it is ambiguous.
    – phoog
    Apr 26, 2020 at 6:33
  • @phoog Almost everything in the world can be ambiguous if you bend the odds of something being meant in a certain way beyond the realm of likelihood. But most things are never taken ambiguously. Apr 26, 2020 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


This is likely a situation where not remembering "such a text" is in reference not to memory, but to customary or standard expectations.

It most likely means that she has never read a text that was so different from her expectations. That is implied by using the word 'such.' It has a dozen or more meanings, but here I'm defining it as "of so extreme a degree or quality."

It's fairly common to use 'such' in that sense in the construction, "I don't remember [gerund] such a [noun] before;" e.g., "I don't remember seeing such a fight before," "I don't remember hearing such an argument before," etc.

And in this case, 'before' is used as an adjunct: it is not necessary to make the clause or sentence complete or grammatically correct, but it adds extra meaning. In this case it connects earlier events to the moment of speaking. You're right that it can be removed, but that doesn't necessarily make it awkward or needless.

In this case, it seems to be saying "She doesn't remember reading such a [stupid, confusing, etc.] text before [this moment in time]."

The implication is that this is one of the most unusual texts she has ever read.


M-W - Before

M-W - Such

Cambridge Dictionary - Uses of 'before'

Cambridge Dictionary -Adjuncts

  • It doesn't seem like you have understood my question. With that being said, it doesn't mean your answer isn't good, it's rather fine. But you do prefer to avoid usage of the adverb "before" while in this case, by replacing it with the adverb "ever" so that we could avoid ambiguity. Am I right?
    – Alex TheBN
    Apr 26, 2020 at 2:03
  • 1
    I may have misunderstood exactly what you were trying to find out. I was answering the question, "Does this sentence mean she doesn't remember the time she read such a text before." This would imply that she has read such a text and just doesn't remember. But I don't think that's the intended meaning; hence my answer. But I'll amend it to address your excellent point. Apr 26, 2020 at 5:21
  • 1
    @Alex Raw - I hope I haven't made things worse by rewriting the answer. And you are correct: you could leave off 'before' and add 'ever,' or say, "She cannot remember reading such a text," and the meaning would not be dramatically different; it just has a slightly different emphasis. But the original sentence is fine as it is, and the use of before, even at the end of a sentence, doesn't need to be avoided. Apr 26, 2020 at 6:26
  • Thank you for providing such an answer! That was what I wanted to know.
    – Alex TheBN
    Apr 26, 2020 at 11:43
  • But why does @JasonBassford in the comments above say it's ambiguous? I do agree with you, yet I want to know why he's said that. I know this is not my question, but rather it is a comment.
    – Alex TheBN
    Apr 26, 2020 at 11:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .