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This is an excerpt from a The Atlantic article.

Hutchins was killed on October 21, 2021—just 12 days into the filming of Rust—during a rehearsal for a gunfight set in a church on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I think the 'set' in bold should be replaced with 'scene'.

Am I wrong?

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    You can rewrite the sentence to say that Hutchins was killed during a rehearsal for a gunfight which was set in a church (etc). Feb 21 at 8:56
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    @MichaelHarvey or adding a comma: "...just 12 days into the filming of Rust—during a rehearsal for a gunfight, set in a church..." But then I admit it adds another punctuation mark which can look clunky.
    – BruceWayne
    Feb 21 at 14:36
  • @BruceWayne, or "rehearsal, for a gunfight set in a church"... :) Feb 22 at 0:17
  • As in your other question today about run, you mistook a passive participle (which in both cases has the same form as the root verb) for a noun. Feb 22 at 3:49

2 Answers 2

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I can understand your confusion, but no, the Atlantic is not incorrect. The trouble is, "set" has many different definitions. Take a look at its wiktionary entry! Four different etymologies and dozens of definitions for each!

You are likely thinking that this "set" is "the scenery for a film or play." If this was correct, then "scene" might be a better word.

However, the actual meaning of "set" in this sentence is not even a noun. It's a verb. "(transitive) To locate (a play, etc.); to assign a backdrop to, geographically or temporally."

Another way you could rephrase the sentence, and keep the same meaning, would be:

Original: ...during a rehearsal for a gunfight set in a church...
Variation: ...during a rehearsal for a gunfight located in a church...

Both of these sentences are fine, and there is nothing wrong with the original.

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  • Thank you very much.
    – user151836
    Feb 21 at 6:19
  • I would argue that there is something wrong with the original: its ambiguity. How do you know that "set" is used as a synonym for "located" and not as a synonym for "scene"? I don't think there is a way to tell.
    – Stef
    Feb 21 at 17:31
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    @Stef The sentence wouldn't make sense if it meant 'scenery for a film/play', because you don't have a rehearsal for the scenery. 'Scene' with the meaning 'a continuous segment of the play/film' would fit, but 'set' doesn't share that meaning with 'scene'.
    – dbmag9
    Feb 21 at 17:36
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"set" here is the past participle of the verb "set". Confusingly, the past participle of the verb "set" is the same as both the present tense of "set" and the noun "set". Given such a variety of meaning for the same form, the sentence would have been much easier to read if it had been "Hutchins was killed on October 21, 2021—just 12 days into the filming of Rust—during a rehearsal for a gunfight that was set in a church on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico."

Also, while the past participle "set" derives from the verb "set", here it heads a phrase modifying "gunfight", thereby fulfilling a function that is usually performed by adjectives.

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    I would upvote this except for the word “grapheme”. Did you perhaps mean “lexeme”? Feb 21 at 23:09
  • @MarcInManhattan: IMHO, just call it a "word" and don't try to use the ten dollar linguistics terms unless you absolutely have to.
    – Kevin
    Feb 22 at 0:47
  • @Kevin I agree. Feb 22 at 1:21
  • @MarcInManhattan I don't think "lexeme" is right right either; as I understand it, different conjugations of there same verb are considered the same lexeme. Feb 22 at 3:32
  • @Kevin I'm trying to emphasize the particular sequence of letters. set-the-noun and set-the-verb are in some sense different words that happen to be spelled and pronounced the same. Feb 22 at 3:33

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