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I see a sentence in the The Economist 202307015:

Each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same, runs a joke among the country’s wonk-class.

looks is a linking verb and runs is a verb. So, I guess there should be a and before the comma, or the runs should be running to indicate states. I know I am wrong, but may you tell me why I am wrong?

3 Answers 3

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"Looks" is a simple present-tense singular verb. The subject of "looks" is "each chart". "Each chart ... looks ..."

"Runs" is also a simple present tense singular verb. The subject of "runs" is the entire preceding clause, "Each chart ... the same". This entire clause is the joke that runs. It's only one joke, so it's singular, and the joke is in the present, so it's present tense.

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  • Why not written as: "That each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same runs a joke among the country’s wonk-class." I feel this is more clearly.
    – Y. zeng
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 6:45
  • @Y. zeng, no, this "That" version would need something like is instead of runs. "That each chart ... same is a joke ...." Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 11:02
  • Why the runs is not correct?
    – Y. zeng
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 14:12
  • @y.zeng Leaving out the comma makes it unclear where the text of the joke ends and the comment about the joke begins.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 1:16
  • @SeowjoohengSingapore Why the runs not correct but is correct?
    – Y. zeng
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 10:35
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This quote is understandable to native speakers, because they understand that it ought to be,

"Each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same", runs a joke among the country’s wonk-class.

A simpler version would be

A joke runs among the country's wonk-class that, "Each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same".

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  • Either put the joke itself in quotes OR use "that", never both. "That" introduces a paraphrase of the quote, never the actual quote itself.
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:10
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There are several issues that make this sentence difficult to understand.

The first issue is the uncommon meaning of the word "run" in this context, which Merriam-Webster defines as:

13 d (1) : to be in a certain form or expression
the letter runs as follows

The next issue is that the first part of the sentence should be in quotation marks:

"Each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same", runs a joke among the country’s wonk-class.

The words in quotes give the form or expression of the joke, which is to say, they show how the joke "runs".

The third issue is that normally we have a subject, a linking verb and a subject complement in that order, but here, the subject and subject complement have been reversed. The phrase "a joke among the country's wonk-class" is the subject of the sentence, and the words in quotes are the subject complement. So normally ordered, and with the quotation marks, it would look like this:

A joke among the country’s wonk-class runs, "Each chart in British public policy looks roughly the same".

Hopefully, this version of the sentence makes the original one clear.

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