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Her foot lands with such force --- so much more force than I thought possible from that tiny body.

a sentence from the novel Yellow Face. I just couldn't wrap my head around the part in bold.Can anyone explain the grammar in it.

Her foot lands with such force --- so much more force than I expect from that tiny body.

would this one be correct too?

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    The text is a curious mix of tenses, reflecting a kind of "stream of consciousness" style But thought is Past, so ...more force than I expected from that tiny body. But that might falsely imply that the narrator had expected some lesser amount of force, which is probably nonsense (he probably wasn't expecting anything at all until the foot landed). But ......more force than I would have expected... is fine. Commented May 12 at 1:54
  • "I thought possible from that tiny body" is a verbless comparative clause, understood as "I thought was possible from that tiny body". Its function is that of complement of the preposition "than".
    – BillJ
    Commented May 12 at 6:32

2 Answers 2

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[1] Her foot lands with such force --- so much more force than [I thought possible from that tiny body].

[2] Her foot lands with such force --- so much more force than [I expect from that tiny body].

You asked about the grammar.

In both examples, the bracketed element is a comparative clause functioning as complement of "than". And in both examples, the present tense in the main clause is a stylistic device used to present the information in a vivid way.

[1] differs from [2] in that the comparative clause is a verbless clause understood as I thought was possible from that tiny body. Preterite "thought" does not refer to past time, but has to with modality.

Comparative clauses can often be understood by using elementary algebra, For example, the meanings can be given as:

"Her foot lands with x force; I thought it would land with y force; x>y".

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The present tense is often used in stories written in modern times. It was thought to make narrated action seem more vivid. Sometimes the narrator will slip into the past tense when relaying thoughts.

Compare:

The waiter brings a big plate of mashed potatoes -- far more than I thought I could eat.

That is, "far more than the amount I thought I could eat".

The person sees the big plate of mashed potatoes and thinks "that is far more mashed potatoes than I think I can eat", that is, more than I believe I have the stomach capacity for or more than I have the hunger for. When relaying that thought in the story, the narrator casts it in the past tense: "... far more than I thought I could eat". Reported thought is like reported speech: it is usually accompanied by a shift to the past tense.

In your sentence:

... lands with so much more force than I thought some amount of force was possible from that tiny body.

The comparands are the actual force and the (implicit) envisioned force. The narrator never expected the tiny body to be able to produce so much force.

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