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I'm writing a story and I want to use the line

to the place I was once separated, I will return.

Now my question is, do I have to use "separated from" or can I simply keep it as "separated."

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  • Agree with selected answer, but in the spirit of "concise is nice", I think you can get rid of was: "to the place I once separated from, I will return" -- this obviously depends a lot on context, as it makes it more the speakers choice to have been separated than an outside force causing the separation. But food for thought, I hope.
    – TCooper
    Sep 30 at 23:34
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You need the "from"; without it, you might be implying that you yourself were broken into pieces!

The grammar rules are: "Separate", as a standalone verb, speaks of one united thing being divided. This is true whether it's transitive ("I separated the bread into slices") or intransitive ("The cell separated, forming two new cells"). The verb "separate" can also be used as you're doing here, to talk about segregating or parting two or more things that are already distinct; this use is a prepositional verb and requires "from": "I separated the pebbles from the beans." "The car's engine has been separated from the frame."

By the way, I hope you intend a poetic and unusual word order; a normal syntax might be "I will return to the place I was once separated from." The inverted syntax is perfectly acceptable under poetic license, as long as you want a lofty or poetic tone.

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  • Yes!! Thank you so much for the explanation. Exactly, I was hoping to be a bit more poetic with it. I rather like the way you put it. I was also thinking something along the lines of "I dream to return to the land, from where I was once separated." What do you think that instead? Wondering about the comma if it should/could be there?
    – The Don
    Sep 30 at 0:10
  • @TheDon "from where I was once separated" sounds stilted, native speakers will generally prefer to end the sentence with the preposition (the supposed rule against doing so is bunk, even in formal contexts, and usually results in awkward-sounding sentences), I'd go for "I was once separated from" instead (in both cases I wouldn't include a comma)
    – Tristan
    Sep 30 at 9:53
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    I think "from where" sounds wrong because it should be "from which". I'm not sure how well the preposition-at-the-end (implying a less formal/more conversational tone) goes with the poetic inversion for other speakers; to me it sounds OK but I can't speak for everyone. "To the place I was once separated from, I will return" vs "To the place from which I was once separated, I will return". The latter is definitely more clunky sounding just because it's more wordy so I think my poetic licence would lead me to the former.
    – Muzer
    Sep 30 at 11:25
  • @TheDon To your proposal of "I dream to return to the land, from where I was once separated": No, I would not include the comma. I'm assuming you don't mean "the land" as a phrase that acts like a proper noun ("The Land"), and need the remaining clause to identify which land. As Muzer notes, rather than "from where" you would want "from which," or Robert's suggestion of "whence" (it's not obsolete, but definitely an "old-fashioned" tone, being more common in earlier centuries). Sep 30 at 12:34
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If you want a nice archaic sound, try "the place whence I was separated" ("From whence" is redundant. Miss Adelaide (in "Guys and Dolls") famously used it -- but so did Shakespeare and Jane Austen.) Or maybe "taken," or even "reft"?

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    Whence is not archaic. It is still in (fairly) common usage. But this doesn't address the question of whether "from" is redundant.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 30 at 12:19
  • @Chenmunka I mean... you're technically right, but if you infer a little bit, the "from"'s redundancy (or implied lack of with 'once separated from') is addressed. And I don't think English towns of <5000 people (whence the 'modern' users reside) counts towards common usage. More importantly though, I think the suggested sentence sounds clunky. I think adding from is still superior: "from whence I was separated, I will return" or as I suggested in my comment on OP, maybe even drop was: "from whence I separated, I will return".
    – TCooper
    Sep 30 at 23:59
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to the place I was once separated, I will return.

Poetic rewrite version:

To the place from which or from where I was once separated, I will return.

Regular rewrite version:
I will return to the place from which or from where I was once separated.

to be separated from a place.

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It is really, really, like dude, REALLY tricky to make this sound natural and native.

The trouble is this:

In English, it's relatively common to "adopt" an "archaic, formal" poise.

It sits in a place between plain humor, and a certain soul-felt seriousness.

You sometimes do it to emphasize the importance, quality, of what you're saying; other times more for humor.

In the phrase in question, you have definitely done that.

You're trying to be "a native English speaker, adopting a more formal, traditional, " ' Shakespearean ' " tone ...

Maybe something like:

To the place from which I was separated, I will one day return.

or what about

I have been separated from a place. But I tell you this, one day I will return to that place.

or maybe

I'll return one day, to that place, they took me from.

Just one huge problem you face: many phrases in English are incredibly, like spectacularly, overloaded with, let's say, social-historical meaning.

It's utterly impossible in English to utter or write "Get Back" without invoking the Beatles song. And you can't utter or write "I will return" without invoking the McArthur thing (google if necessary). Which would seem to have absolutely no stylistic connection to your writing piece, so, it's tricky.

This is a really, really difficult issue in English. No native contemporary writer would ever, ever, type "I will return" without considering the military/socio-historic milieu. It's tough!

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  • 1
    Thank you so much for your insightful comment. I rather enjoyed reading it! I must clarify, I'm not really writing a book or publication of the sort. I'm writing an essay, however, that I like to infuse with some poetic/stylistic phrases. That said, you are absolutely correct haha I love the archaic, yet modern type of writing. I really enjoy reading older English writing, say 19th or 20th century. But I sometimes have trouble with it.
    – The Don
    Sep 30 at 4:00
  • Cheers, I strongly recommend Winston Churchill (generally the greatest rhythmist, stylist, in modern english). What about My Early Life, his autobiography (which is totally hilarious) which is basically "the" textbook for rhythm in modern English.
    – Fattie
    Sep 30 at 5:21
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    As a native English speaker of 51 years, both of those references went over my head. Beatles were before my time, and 'get back' is such a common phrase it does not belong to them. Did you mean Mac Arthur saying 'I SHALL return' when you said 'I WILL return'? most of the references to 'I will return' when googled are also to songs. Sep 30 at 10:03
  • @TheDon I assumed you were writing fiction and this line was dialogue from a rather colorful character. I would caution against adopting poetic or antiquated tones in everyday prose writing (unless you want to write "in character" as a quirky voice). The Star Wars character Yoda uses inverted syntax as a defining characteristic and it's fine as fictional dialogue, but an essay written in that style would be bewildering. I'm not sure the challenges are as great as Fattie suggests, but I would stick to contemporary common usage at first. Sep 30 at 12:40
  • indeed as @AndyBonner says. The question does begin "I'm writing a story" but the situation is a bit unclear.
    – Fattie
    Sep 30 at 12:49

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