I sometimes hear the sentence "we call the shots as we see them." I want to ask whether the as-clause modifies "shots" or "call”, just in the same way as "as we know it" modifies "life" in "Life as we know it will cease to exist."

The reason I am asking this question is that as for the similar idiomatic pharse "call it as I see it," the as-clause "as I see it" seems to me not to modify "it" if the same rule as appleied in the use of the relative "that" (e.g., the relative clause "that we bought at the store" cannot modify the preceding noun if it is pronoun as in *we sold it that we boought at the store) holds of this case. Then, the only option seems to be treat the as-clause as a adverbial modifier modifying the verb or verbal phrase including "call," I guess. And if it is possible, I wonder whether "as we see them" in "we call the shots as we see them." modifies "call". But nevertheless it does not seem to me that the as-clause indeed does it.

So, please tell me about "we call the shots as we see them" and "call it as I see it."

The relevant examples are below:

1.Steve, we're simply telling examiners that you have to do your job in a professional manner, call the shots as you see them and....

2.M-O'BRIEN: Nothing gets an A. To the extent that this feeds into a perception that Democrats are maybe whining about all of this, how do you respond to that? SCHUMER: OK. First, you've got to call the shots as you see them.

And I found the relevant question at https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/we-call-the-shots-as-we-see-them.1394794/

and another one I posted at She's going to tell the truth as she saw/understood it

I want to receive whatever ideas from as many people as possible, so it would be very appreciated if you give me ideas, comments, and the like. Please help me out. I need more ideas or comments even if they are much the same as those other persons have already pointed out.

  • This is a (probably accidental) combination of two separate phrases: "call the shots" and "call them as you see them". Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:57
  • Thank you Daniel for your comment. I don't know exactly, but does it mean "as you see them" modifies "shots"? Or this phrase is composed of such differnet phrase, so general analysis (i.e. how to call is not compatible with how to see) is beyond the scope?
    – saki
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 10:14
  • 1
    I'm not really sure what you're asking here. A grammatical analysis of this is a bit pointless as it's a throwaway comment; but "as you see them" describes the manner in which you are calling the shots, I suppose. Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 10:26
  • You mean ”as you see them” modifies "call" in "call them as you them", right? In that case, I don't know why such modification is possible since "call" and "see" are different actions and incompatible with each other. Then, I also have no idea of why "as she saw it" cannot modify "tell" in "she's going to tell the truth as she saw it" even though "as you see them" modifies "call" in "call them as you seem them."
    – saki
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 10:30
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    I might have understood the difference between "Call the shots as you see them" and "She's going to tell the truth as she saw it." Is the function of the former as-clause similar to that of "as you find it" in "Leave everything as you find it, " not similar to "as we know it" in "Life as we kow it will be ceased to exist"?
    – saki
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 10:43

1 Answer 1


"call the shots" is a metaphor borrowed from the film industry. It would literally mean a film director who "calls" (ie shouts) what scene and what camera angle he/she wants. Metaphorically to "call the shots" means to make important decisions.

The modifier "as you see them" gives information on how the person should do their job. It is about how to call, not about the type of shots. It modifies the clause headed by the verb "call", not the noun "shots".

I read "call it as I see it" in the same way. The prepositional phrase is modifying the clause headed by "call", and not the pronoun "it".

  • Thank you. I think if "as you see them" modifies "call" and this as-clause functions as providing a manner (i.e., how to call) like "the way you call the shots is like the way you see them, " which is imcompatible with each other, I guess. So, how do you think about this point? The pharse "one call the shots as one sees them" is considered as a fixed expression, and therefore the meaning of "see" in the as-clause is coerced to fit the meaning of "call" or some other reasons?
    – saki
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:40
  • I also want to ask you about the relevant example "She's going to tell the truth as she saw it." For you, does the as-clause "as she saw it" modify "tell"?
    – saki
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:45
  • I think you are way overcomplicating things. Often these prepositional phrases give extra information about the whole clause. That is to say it gives some extra information about both "how to call" and "what type of shots". As an English Learner, you will improve faster if you focus on Communication rather than Analysis. It is better to be able to communicate effectively, than to be able to draw a parse tree, but not understand English.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 21:29
  • Thank you, but my puropose is not to communicate in English, but to study, research, analyse it from a linguistic perspective. That is why I ask a little complicated questions and I want to receive ideas or intuitions from native speakers of English.
    – saki
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 3:13
  • consider moving to Linguistics
    – James K
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 7:01

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