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We should respect food and think about the people who don’t have what we have here and treat food nicely.

How should I understand "and treat food nicely"? Does it modify "the people"?

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Pretend for a moment that we're starting with these three sentences:

  1. We should respect food.
  2. We should think about the people who don’t have what we have here.
  3. We should treat food nicely.

We can combine these into one sentence using and:

  1. We should respect food
  2. and we should think about the people who don’t have what we have here
  3. and we should treat food nicely.

Now we have one long sentence with three parts, but we're repeating we should in each part, and this is unnecessary. Let's remove it from the last two:

  1. We should respect food
  2. and we should think about the people who don’t have what we have here
  3. and we should treat food nicely.

Now we've got the original sentence.

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The subject of treat food nicely isn't the people (in bold in your sentence) but "we" (not representing the people in bold in your sentence). The adverb nicely modifies the verb treat, it describes the way we should treat our food.

In other words A (representing the people in your sentence) do not have enough food to survive. B (representing "we" in your sentence) have so much food that they often waste it. B should behave in such a way that they should not waste, implying that instead of wasting food, they could give some to B. If we treat our food nicely, we'll also treat those who do not have enough food nicely.

  • And if we ever get to The Restaurant at the End of Universe, we should treat food nicely, because some of the food will expect to converse with us before the meal is prepared. (For those who are not familiar with Douglas Adams stories, this is a reference to an awkward, but very funny, scene in one of his novels.) – Jasper Aug 23 '14 at 17:31
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As mentioned earlier, "we" the speaker are the ones who are performing the action of "treat food nicely." However, since you are asking this question that means the sentence is not worded very clearly. I would re-write it as a list:

We should respect food, think about the people who don’t have what we have here, and treat food nicely.

This also removes an extra "and." If possible, you should avoid having more than one "and" in a sentence since you can likely make it clearer by simply listing your topics.

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