Her story is hard to know the true motive of. (A Little Rose by Charlotte Brown)

I don't understand the strucutre of this. Is this grammatical?

  • 3
    Alternate versions: It is hard to know the true motive of her story, or To know the true motive of her story is hard. – Damkerng T. Aug 31 '14 at 8:54
  • 1
    Can you provide a link to that source, or a fuller excerpt? (I'm having difficulty in googling that sentence.) – F.E. Sep 13 '14 at 22:23

The most basic structure of this sentence is the following

The true motive of her story is hard to know.

The prepositional phrase

of her story

is rearranged and placed weirdly. This is not grammatical.

The sentence structure is also changed and would read without the prep phrase like the following

It is hard to know the true motive.

In this case an implied subject "you" is used. When you include the implied subject

It is hard for you to know the true motive.

Hopefully it will be easier for you to analyze the grammar.

Authors of fiction novels like "A Little Rose" often use improper English to add style to the writing. If the author wishes to portray a rural character with no schooling, they may use improper English to reflect this without stating it outright.

Notice that Charlotte Brown has made this stylistic change at the cost of clarity. You should always strive for clarity.

  • I don't believe James Joyce, or even Mark Twain, or a lot of other authors aimed for clarity. – user6951 Oct 13 '14 at 23:29
  • Depends on the context - if I am known and liked for particularly purple prose, then aiming for clarity is the opposite of what I want to strive for. – Damien H Oct 14 '14 at 0:09

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