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I was reading Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It when I encountered a very complicatedly structured sentence in the "September 30, 1993" section of Chapter 2, BE A MIRROR, as follows:

The whole cavalry showed up for this one—NYPD, FBI, SWAT—all the muscle and savvy of law enforcement up against the knee-jerk desperation of a couple of bank robbers seemingly in over their heads.

I wonder if there should be a verb before "up against". Could anyone please help delineate all the clauses in that? I am overwhelmed.

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  • Why do you think there should be a verb there? Mar 21 at 5:17
  • I cannot comprehend the words starting from "all the muscle", and the structure seems very very strange. Mar 21 at 5:34
  • All the strength of cops up against the confusion of stupid robbers. Mar 21 at 5:37
  • I wonder, would the sentence be more understandable if "up" in "up against" were omitted? I.e. "The whole cavalry showed up — A, B, C, D — all the muscle of law enforcement against the knee-jerk desperation etc."
    – printf
    Mar 21 at 13:31
  • Certainly could include a verb: "came," "went," "threw itself," etc. before "up against" -- "The whole cavalry came up against a couple of bank robbers." Describing the robbers' action as "knee-jerk desperation" doesn't help make for a clear sentence. The sentence is further complicated by the punctuation. The dashes set off an enumeration of the cavalry; that should be immediately after "cavalry," not after the phrase "showed up for this one."
    – user8356
    Mar 21 at 14:33

1 Answer 1

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The whole end of the sentence, after "...for this one", is just a list of noun phrases. There is a explicit list of organizations (NYPD, SWAT) and then a long noun phrase. You can read these phrases as meaning "There was NYPD. There was SWAT. There was all the muscle and savvy ..."

So the structure of the noun phrase is headed by the two coordinated nouns "muscle" and "savvy" (some metonymy here, as these are used figuratively), followed by various prepositional phrases "of law enforcement" and "against [...]" and the object of "against" is another noun phrase, headed by "desperation" (again figurative) with a prepositional phrase inside the bracket: "of a couple of bank robbers" and a participle "seemingly in over their heads" which tell us about the "bank robbers".

all the muscle and savvy
        of law enforcement
        up against the knee-jerk desperation
                                 of a couple of bank robbers 
                                                seemingly in over their heads.

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