Harry is basically a fat man searching for a thin man that he once used to be.

It's an example sentence in The Cambridge grammar of the English language.

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What does search for mean here? I don't think the intended meaning is "looking for." However, I can't find any other definition in the dictionary.


1 Answer 1


It's a very odd sentence for many reasons. Without its original context, it's impossible to say with certainty what the writer meant.

One way to understand it is that Harry is fat, and he used to be thin. The "searching for" part isn't literal, but could mean he's working hard to become thin again, or he really wishes he was thin again, or he still thinks of himself or idealizes himself as thin.

Another understanding of it is not that Harry is fat, but that he is in some other way dissatisfied with himself, perhaps in comparison to his younger self, and in a way that he will probably never be able to achieve, and the sentence compares him to a fat man who wishes he were thin again.

Whatever the original meaning, a much more natural wording of that sentence would be:

Harry is basically a fat man searching for the thin man that he once used to be.

  • Thank you, gotube. After trying many times I've succeeded uploading a picture. The author also says that "a" is uncommon.
    – ForOU
    Nov 19, 2022 at 3:39

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