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I came across this quote by Eudora Welty:

Ever since I was first read to, then started reading to myself, there has never been a line read that I didn't hear. Source

My question is:

Can I say "there has never been a line read that I haven't heard"?

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    You can certainly say Ever since I was first read to there has never been a line read that I didn't hear. It's syntactically valid, even though logically it doesn't make sense (obviously many other people would have read lines that the speaker wouldn't have heard). But syntactically you can't just drop then started reading to myself into that utterance. So that "original" example is invalid. As for the shorter example There has never been a line read that I haven't heard?, that again is semantic nonsense. Jun 5, 2020 at 18:23
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    ...do you perhaps mean that whenever you read any line of text, you "hear" it as a "voice in your head"? That would make sense, but you'd need to phrase things differently. Jun 5, 2020 at 18:26
  • I have been trying to sharpen my English language skills recently, and I came across this quote today while I was studying verb sequencing. Let alone that I didn't fully understand it, since I speak Arabic, I also got puzzled by reading it and felt like I have achieved nothing so far. Thanks for the replies ❤️
    – AN24
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:16
  • FumbleFingers. Can you please explain why it's semantically invalid?
    – AN24
    Jun 5, 2020 at 19:19
  • “semantic nonsense“ I think what FF is driving at is we read lines in a book, we don't normally hear them, but the author starts off by saying "ever since I was first read to" which means as a small child she listened to the stories being read out loud. Thereafter whenever she read anything, she always heard a narrator's voice in her head. The phrase is hyperbolic, but I find nothing nonsensical (in meaning) about it, especially if you continue reading: “As my eyes followed the sentence, a voice was saying it silently to me. It isn't my voice, or the voice of any person I can identify...”.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 6, 2020 at 9:58

1 Answer 1

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The quote in its original form: "Ever since I was first read to, then started reading to myself, there has never been a line read that I didn't hear." The author meant that she heard every sentence read at the time of its reading, either spoken by someone reading it to her, or by her internal mental voice speaking along with her reading. If she said "that I haven't heard", it might mean that she had heard everything before reading it, which isn't what what she meant.

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