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The following is from a documentary about a dog, and how her owner's taking her to the park regularly has affected it. And you hear this:

"And this increased exposure to the outside world."

When you hear this, you very well understand it and you wouldn't doubt that this is a sentence, because it has the required components of a proper sentence. It has the subject and the verb, and it makes sense.

  • subject: This: (referring to the owner's taking it to the park). It is common that "This" can function as a pronoun, too, just like "That" is.
  • verb: to increase (the verb of the sentence in simple past.)
  • meaning: (The owner's taking her to the park allowed for more exposure to the outside.)

However, as you listen, it turns out that this whole sentence is actually - only - the subject of another sentence. Here it is:

"And this increased exposure to the outside world has given her an urge for independence." BBC-puppy tries to steal food (see: 1:00-1:12)

How can a seemingly full sentence can be a subject of another sentence? Is there anything in the first sentence that shows that it can't be a sentence on its own?

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  • Increased there is a participial adjective, not a verb. That's not a sentence. Mar 16 at 14:01
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    @Michael Harvey, If you hadn't seen the second sentence, would have thought that it wasn't a sentence? Would you have thought it as a participial adjective, if you hadn't seen the second sentence? No, you would not have. That is the tricky part. I mean it can easily be mistaken as a full sentence on its own, because it has all the components, doesn't it? For example: "I started to wake up early for the last month. This increased my energy." The second sentence is clearly a sentence, and it has the same structure as the one in the question.
    – Yunus
    Mar 16 at 14:08
  • At first reading, it sounds as if "this" is an adjective connected to "exposure" rather than a pronoun, but in the right context, it can be read as a pronoun referring to something just introduced. Mar 16 at 14:13
  • Yunus, there is no period or other sentence-terminating punctuation after 'world'. Mar 16 at 15:09
  • "I started to wake up early for the last month. This increased my energy." doesn't have the same structure as the one in your question. 'This' points to the first sentence and becomes the subject of its sentence whereas "And this increased exposure to the outside world." is itself the subject, not a separate sentence.
    – hwkal
    Mar 18 at 21:09

1 Answer 1

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Putting aside the fact that the first example would look odd on its own, the crux here is that "increased" is being used two different ways, so you're not actually using the first example as a subject in the second example, you're using a new sentence structure with a different meaning.

The fact that you might be initially misled due to these different meanings of the same word is relatively common, and is referred to as a garden path sentence because it "leads you up the garden path" (leads you astray).

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