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That curious and little advertised organisation I have just mentioned, the creation I am told of Lord Lloyd, that British Council, sends emissaries abroad, writers, well-dressed women and other cultural personages, to lecture, charm and win over foreign appreciation for British characteristics, for British scenery, British political virtues and so forth

- The new world order by H.G. Wells

Does "I am told of Lord Lloyd" mean "Lord Lloyd told me about the creation of the organisation I have just mentioned"?

I don't understand the sentence because of this phrase. If my version is false, then where does the "that" before "British Council" belong to?

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  • It would be clearer with more commas. "[The British Council is], I am told, the creation of Lord Lloyd." Wells understood, from what people had told him, that Lloyd had founded the British Council. Commented May 23, 2021 at 8:13
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    It's not "I am told of." It's "I am told" sandwiched into the phrase "the creation of Lord Lloyd," meaning that you can interpret that bit of the sentence as: (It's) the creation of Lord Lloyd, I am told. Commented May 23, 2021 at 8:44
  • It is slightly amusing to see this very famous organisation "The British Council" referred to as "curious and little advertised".
    – James K
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 9:22
  • @JamesK - The British Council, originally called the British Committee for Relations with Other Countries. was founded in 1934, and its first overseas offices opened in 1938, six years and two years respectively, before Wells' book was published. Its work expanded greatly during and after World War 2. Commented May 23, 2021 at 10:02
  • @KateBunting but where does "that" before British Council belong to?
    – 1amroff
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 5:40

1 Answer 1

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'I am told' is a phrase inserted in the sentence to provide additional information to the reader (namely, that Wells does not know for certain that Lord Lloyd created the organisation, but is relying on information he has been given). Such insertions are said to be 'parenthetical'.

It would be clearer that 'I am told' is a parenthetical insertion if the sentence had been punctuated differently.

Three types of punctuation are commonly used to set off parenthetical text:

Commas:
That ... organisation ... the creation, I am told, of Lord Lloyd ...

Parentheses:
That ... organisation ... the creation (I am told) of Lord Lloyd ...

Em dashes:
That ... organisation ... the creation — I am told — of Lord Lloyd ...

You can make an em dash (on a Windows PC with a numeric pad on the keyboard) if you (1) make sure that Num Lock is activated (2) hold down the Alt key (3) type 0151 on the keypad (4) release the Alt key.

Commas are most often used. It may be that Wells felt that the sentence had too many commas already.

Sometimes parenthetical punctuation is necessary to avoid ambiguity:

The house, I saw, was on fire
I saw that the house being discussed was on fire

The house I saw was on fire
Among a number of possible houses, the one which I saw was on fire

Parenthetical Expression

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