I'm having a little bit of difficulties with the future in the past narrative.

Zoe decided she would sell her downtown apartament, and with the money she would get and the cash she had been saving, she would buy herself a house in the suburbs.

Is everything in the sentence above correct? I feel like there might be too many "she"s and "would"s, but again, I have no idea how I could keep it clear without repeating these words.

  • Please don't worry about the repetition. The rule against "never repeat yourself" is beloved of fussy old schoolmistresses born in the 1850s, and is no more than a style guide for those who want to write flowery chick-lit. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


It's all correct, and flows quite well.

If you're worried by the repeats of 'she would' then you could try 'and with the income from that and the cash she had been saving' - & you could place the end of the sentence earlier, as in:

"Zoe decided she would sell her downtown apartment, and buy herself a house in the suburbs with her savings and the income from that."

I think the perception of repetition comes from looking at it too often; as it is written, it follows Zoes' thought processes quite well. I think the shorter version isn't a whole lot shorter; just different in style.


If you said this had been written by a native speaker, I would have believed you.*

Your thinking that you need all those she’s and would’s in order to be clear is exactly right. Clearly you are using grammar to communicate, by empathizing with the listener’s need for grammatical cues in order to understand the sentence. That’s excellent. You’ve even got nicely contrasting tenses in money she would get and cash she had been saving. It’s done so simply—that is, it exploits English grammar so effectively—a reader hardly notices the complexity of what’s being described.


The rhythm of the sentence is unusually good. Most native speakers don’t write sentences that sound this nice! The line sounds almost like poetry. It strikes a nice balance between repeating and varying its rhythms, and the recurring rhythms are in sync with the grammar. Notice that money and cash both land on accented syllables. The word herself is unnecessary, but it aids the rhythm—excellent choice.

Some of the other answers suggest ways to shorten the sentence, but I think the repeated use of would contributes a lot to that nice rhythm. It emphasizes the flow of events in Zoë’s life. The shorter wordings emphasize the house and the money, and they break up the rhythm.

Here’s how I’d tune it up just a tiny bit more. This version adds a that after decided so you get the same rhythm to occur twice at the beginning of the sentence, which fits the rest of the sentence a little better. And it replaces been saving with saved, to make saved better echo the verbs in the other “she”-clauses, and to make the contrast between tenses even stronger. I've marked the phrases with same grammar and rhythm in bold:

Zoë decided that she would sell her downtown apartment, and with the money she would get and the cash she had saved, she would buy herself a house in the suburbs.


If you’re looking for a generally applicable principle about repetition of grammatical words, it’s: repetition is good as long as each repetition varies something from what came before and each repetition brings progress. This is an aesthetic matter, so that’s not a strict rule, of course. But one reason the sentence works so well is that each repetition describes a different time, and the repetitions lead straight to a conclusion which comes latest in time as well as last in the sentence.

Seriously, if most of the sentences you write have this excellent parallel flow of rhythm and grammar, you should be writing English professionally.

* Except that apartament should be apartment.

  • 1
    I was literally left speechless after reading your comment. For me, English is even more important than my native language; I'm completely and utterly in love with every aspect of it. And hearing such kind words regarding my skill and ability to use it gave me an incredible burst of self-confidence. Thank you!
    – Bebop B.
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 21:00

Another phrasing would be: Zoe decided she would sell her downtown apartment and, with the money from that and the cash she'd been saving, buy herself a house in the suburbs. The "would" would be understood to apply to the whole rest of the sentence, basically.

  • You could write it like that, but in my mind that creates a sentence which is starting to get over-complex and hence difficult to parse. OP's original has more simplicity and clarity. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 22:35

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