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The sentence is: Rose bit back a retort that so had she and went in to see her mother. A Daughter's Duty - Maggie Hope, 2014

What sort of sentence is this. The word order is messed up I think. Why is it 'that so had she' and not 'that she had'?

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    Please edit your question to provide more context for your quote. A source or the surrounding text. Without this, any answer would be speculation. Feb 6, 2023 at 22:55
  • It's called "reported speech". If Rose had retorted (instead of "biting back" the words, and keeping quiet), we might write Rose said so had she. Which only makes sense coming straight after her father saying he had been working all day. That's why we need context. Feb 6, 2023 at 23:53

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(I've edited the question to include a link to the full context.)

What sort of sentence is this? - it's reported speech


Rose's father has just complained that he doesn't want to be kept waiting for his dinner. He adds "I've only been working all day" - implying ...so now it's my turn to rest, and your turn to work for me (in such contexts, only is an intensifier).

Rose would like to retort "So have I" (been working all day), but she has to "bite her tongue" and keep quiet. In reported speech, "So have I" becomes [She said] so had she (except in reality she didn't say it! ;-)


I could say Rose wanted to bite back with that retort. It's a quirk of idiomatic English that to bite back can mean both to refrain from and to deliver a robust retort (here's a link to a couple of written instances of the second sense).

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    Thank you very much. Feb 7, 2023 at 1:45
  • I must apologize for unjustly suggesting in my comment that you would quite possibly just accept the first answer posted, then disappear forever, leaving a confusing voting pattern behind :) Feb 7, 2023 at 2:16
  • @FumbleFingers Hi! I upvoted your good answer! Now, we counterbalance the downvote! Your good answer does not deserve a downvote! Oct 20, 2023 at 8:51
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More context would be helpful, but to my eye it makes sense if we add some context like:

Fred said, "I always gave mother plenty of my time." Rose bit back a retort that so had she, and went in to see her mother.

"So had she" is referring to something from a previous sentence -- the thing she is biting back a retort to.

Alternatively, it could have been: "Rose bit back a retort that she, too, had [done some thing], and went in to see her mother." So had she is likely the author trying to avoid repeating the thing that was just said.

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    This is broadly right. The actual context (as seen in the link is Rose's father saying "I've been working all day. Rose bit back a retort that so had she...."
    – James K
    Feb 6, 2023 at 23:40
  • It wasn't that hard to find the actual context. Very likely my answer taking full account of the context will eventually end up with most votes, but this one will probably always be the accepted answer. If you can't find the context yourself, better to ask the OP to provide it in a comment under the question. Especially if OP is a new user - who will quite possibly just accept the first answer posted, then disappear forever, leaving a confusing voting pattern behind. Feb 7, 2023 at 0:01
  • Anyway, my downvote to this answer was because of the final sentence, which is just complete nonsense. The author isn't trying to avoid repeating anything - she's just writing accurately reported speech. Feb 7, 2023 at 0:03
  • @FumbleFingers Compare: "I always gave mother plenty of my time." Rose bit back a retort that she, too, had always given their mother plenty of her personal time, and went in to see her mother. -- It still works, but "so had she" avoids repeating the statement and to my ear sounds less awkward because of it. You said what it's called, I said what it's doing, and an example of why it's used.
    – JamieB
    Feb 7, 2023 at 12:21
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    +1 Using an auxiliary in affirmative sentences such as so did she, "so was she" or so had she is used precisely in reported speech to avoid repeating the main verb. Your last sentence is not nonsense.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 9, 2023 at 9:43
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The question cannot be answered unless previous context is provided.

So, I have invented some context to show how this works.

For example. Rose and Mary are talking.

Mary says: "I've had huge problems with them!"

Rose bit back a retort that so had she [had huge problem with them]. Without the previous sentence, the "so had she" cannot be interpreted.

One can take a verb like to have, and use another verb form to make another utterance with so:

He has apples. So have I. He had four cars. So had I.

Notice how the verb form with the adverb so refers to a previous context.

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