3
  1. She looks at him as if to say something, but then stops herself.

  2. She looks at him as if about to say something, but then stops herself.

  3. She looks at him as if she's about to say something, but then stops herself.

Hi. I'm pretty sure the third sentence is correct, but is it possible to make it shorter as in sentence one and two? How would you write it?

  • I think that (2) works fine, but (1) doesn't. You can express an emotion by looking, but you can't actually say something. – Kate Bunting Jun 26 at 12:22
  • Rarely would I disagree with Kate but I can't fault (1) either. I understand it to mean that she looks at him as if (she were about) to say something, but then stops herself (from saying anything). – Ronald Sole Jun 26 at 13:34
  • When you say "she stops herself", do you mean she stops herself from saying something? Or stops herself from looking? Technically, all three sentences could be read as the latter. But for most purposes I think the meaning is clear enough in all three. – Richter65 Jun 26 at 22:40
1

(2) and (3) are both grammatically correct, and both say the same thing. (2) is obviously shorter because it omits the "she's" but since there is no other interpretation for the meaning of the sentence the omission is fine.

(1) is grammatically correct, but here the omission of "about" has created another possible interpretation. (1) could also mean, 'She looks at him as if to say something with the look itself, but then stops, never having intended to actually speak.' Either interpretation is possible, so by omitting "about" you are making the sentence shorter but reducing its clarity.

Thus, if you are trying to reduce length but keep the meaning unambiguously that of (3), your best choice among the three listed is (2).

However, if your goal is brevity, the reflexive pronoun "herself" is unnecessary. Who else would be stopping her from speaking?

She looks at him as if about to say something, but then stops.

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  1. She looks at him as if to say something, but then stops herself.

1 is the least wordy (and least 'congested') statement but is still grammatically correct.

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