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I'm translating a piece of literature that describes the writer's childhood memory of a cake shop where he sat many times with his granddad. I'm not sure if my translation gives back what he means: "The Blue Bird cake shop where I sat a hundred evenings with my grandfather."

So there were about a hundred different evenings that he spent at this cake shop with his granddad.

Am I using the right tense? It doesn't sound outright wrong to me, but perhaps I'm confusing myself.

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    I would find ...where I spent a hundred evenings far more idiomatic. Native speakers don't very often adverbially modify to sit by a time duration without a preposition. And to be honest, I'm not all that keen on either on, for or over in this exact context. Stylistically speaking I'd say it's better to change the actual verb from sat to something like spent that doesn't need a preposition anyway. Essentially, this has no implications for the actual meaning. Jan 25 at 18:24
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    I really like "where I sat a hundred evenings." It reminds me of Dylan's 'Frankie Lee and Judas Priest'. (Or maybe of Heraclitus.) "spent" is more conventional though. Jan 25 at 19:26
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    It's not a sentence, so no, it isn't correct. It's just a noun clause. Consider: "The Blue Bird Cake Shop was where I sat..."
    – gotube
    Jan 25 at 20:21
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    @Lambie but then you lose the meter ...SAT-a HUNdred EV'nings... is far superior in my inner monologue. I would probably change from Cake shop to Bakery for allegory and meter (and you don't lose that much meaning) - but it does depend on the original work. I'd evaluate it at least. And I would change the verb to "spent". You spend an evening. You don't sit it. (course you can sit also, but to me it just sounds better) Jan 26 at 9:21
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    In some sense, you'll need to provide the original to know if you are capturing the original correctly.
    – chepner
    Jan 26 at 15:56

4 Answers 4

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Yes, I see no problem with that interpretation.

The value "a hundred" is likely to be understood as "an unspecified large number"

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That sounds great to me. Very florid and poetic, if that’s the effect you’re going for. The tense is fine; standard English doesn’t distinguish the imperfect aspect the way some other languages do. “I used to sit” might make it slightly less ambiguous that the narrator is talking about a recurring or habitual former action, and “over a hundred evenings” slightly more explicit that we’re talking about many different evenings rather than one evening that felt like a hundred, but I think the meaning is perfectly clear as it is.

One minor nit: “where I sat a hundred evenings ...” is a non-restrictive clause. There isn’t some other Blue Bird cake shop the audience might have in mind where he didn’t sit a hundred evenings with his grandfather. So, in formal written English, there should be a comma before the relative clause: “The Blue Bird cake shop, where I sat a hundred evenings with my grandfather.”

The one reason I can think of that you might prefer a different construction is if if you want the narrator to sound a little less formal. Personally, though, I think it works well to say this in a way that stands out a bit. My advice would be not to change this turn of phrase into something more humdrum.

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  • It's not grammatically incorrect to use a restrictive clause for something that has already been uniquely defined. Jan 27 at 3:37
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To me, it sounds fine. Some people may not understand it instantly, but overall I feel as if it sounds natural if it is meant to sound more ‘poetic’

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Sit can take a direct object, which gives somewhat different more specific meanings. For example "to sit nine subjects at an exam", "to sit a horse", "a table sitting 6 people". So to some readers "where I sat a hundred evenings" becomes ambiguous or confusing at first (subconscious) parse; that is then discarded and reinterpreted as verb + adverb. Perhaps that is what elicits some sense of discomfort for you.

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