9

Example with a context:

The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

I don't think I understand how since is used in that sentence.

  • 7
    Whew! That's a brainful. "The setbacks to the Minsk deal [ since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce ] have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine." – snailcar Feb 23 '15 at 17:45
  • 5
    Since introduces a temporal expression modifying setbacks: "the setbacks ...[which have occurred during the time which has passed] since the rebels &c" which – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 23 '15 at 18:39
  • this is a truly awfully written but grammatically correct sentence. It makes more sense as two. "The rebels disavowed the Minsk deal by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce. The setbacks that have occured since then have prompted..." – hunter Mar 7 '15 at 12:09
4

As @snailboat points out, the sentence is quite a "brainful" one. Here the since is describing a specific set of setbacks which have occurred between the time that the rebels disavowed the Minsk deal and the relative now of the speaker.

The reason that the sentence is so difficult to parse is that the speaker is attempting to convey so much information in a single sentence. If you break it down, there are four clauses describing the setbacks of which the since interval that threw you is the second of four. Hopefully this rewrite of the example sentence assisted by brackets to denote the various clauses help make the morass a bit clearer.

The setbacks [to the Minsk deal [between the time that the rebels disavowed (the Minsk deal) [by taking a strategic town [that they said was not covered by the truce]] and now]] have prompted new calls for US President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

Hopefully this clears things up.

  • 2
    I'm not the downvoter, but I think the way you bracket it makes it sound like it's the deal between then and now, not the setbacks between then and now. – Damkerng T. Mar 1 '15 at 13:00
  • Indeed, you could make use of a better bracketing. – M.A.R. Mar 1 '15 at 13:06
4
+150

The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

One way to make a sentence easier to understand a sentence is to simplify the noun phrases. Also, we can delete any extra bits of information that aren't essential. Let's replace the long noun phrase U.S. President Barack Obama with Obama:

The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce have prompted new calls for Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

We can also delete the adjuncts here - extra bits which aren't completely necessary for the grammar. In this sentence by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce is extra information that tells us how something was done. We do not need it to understand the basic information. The phrase to defend Ukraine is also an adjunct telling us the purpose of the weapons. We know what the weapons are for. We don't need this either. This gives us:

  • The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it have prompted new calls for Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons.

We can delete adjectives as well, if they aren't essential (adjective usually aren't essential). Let's delete lethal. All weapons are lethal! Let's delete new too:

  • The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it have prompted calls for Obama to give Kiev weapons.

So far so good. Another strategy we can use is to find out what all the pronouns in the sentence refer to. Here the difficult pronoun is it. This word refers to the Minsk deal. We can now break the sentence into Subject, Predicator (verb) and Object:

  • Subject: The setbacks to the Minsk deal - since the rebels disavowed the Minsk deal
  • Predicator: have prompted
  • Object: calls for Obama to give Kiev weapons.

The subject here is still a bit complicated. We need to decide if this is "since" meaning after, or "since" meaning because. It is the "since" which means after. The subject means:

  • The setbacks to the Minsk deal (which happened) after the rebels disavowed the Minsk deal

The word disavowed means that they stopped supporting the deal. Or that they broke it. So we can paraphrase the sentence like this:

The setbacks to the Minsk deal (which happened after the rebels stopped supporting the deal) have prompted calls for Obama to give Kiev weapons.

  • 2
    I can't really see what was "inadequate" about @Omnidisciplinarianist's original answer, but if it needs to be broken down even more exhaustively I guess you've succeeded! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 8 '15 at 2:53
  • Any reason for the downvote? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 9 '16 at 14:05
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    Not me guv! I actually upvoted! Maybe your question was just thrown out into the ether in hopes that the real downvoter would explain himself (fat chance! :) but as you prolly know, SO pings me because I'm the only one in the frame. I was framed! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jul 9 '16 at 14:32
  • @FumbleFingers Just so you know, I didn't think it was! Actually, I also didn't know SO would ping you either. That's useful to know :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 10 '16 at 17:17
3

My two cents: The paragraph could use some commas, or parentheses:

The setbacks to the Minsk deal, since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce, have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

The setbacks to the Minsk deal (since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce) have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

2

There was the Minsk deal.

The rebels disavowed it.

Since then, there have been setbacks.

Those setbacks have caused people to ask President Obama to take action.

(Everything that all the other good people above said, in super-condensed form)

1

"The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine."

There are really too many clauses in this sentence for easy comprehension by beginners, so let's break it up a bit.

At some time, the Minsk deal was reached. At some later time "the rebels disavowed it by taking a strategic town they said was not covered by the truce".

Since that time, there have been other setbacks to the Minsk deal, and these setbacks "have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine."

1

The sentence is very long especially without punctuations in it. I think that's one of the reasons for the confusion. For a while, forget how did rebels disavow the deal and also what all calls in detail Mr. President got.

Cutting it short, we get...

The setbacks to the Minsk deal since the rebels disavowed it have prompted new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama

Do you get a clearer picture now? 'since' is now a bit easier to understand. It means from that time.

Rebels disavowed the deal which lead to setting the deal back. This prompted the President and so on...

1

1. Parse of Sentence

Here's a hierarchical parse of the sentence:

The setbacks 
    to the Minsk deal 
    since [means AFTER, but also implies BECAUSE] 
       the rebels disavowed it [it = the Minsk deal]
           by 
              taking a strategic town 
              they said was not covered by the truce
have prompted
    new calls for U.S. President Barack Obama 
         to give Kiev lethal weapons to defend Ukraine.

Therefore, the following is a simplified form:

  • The setbacks since X prompted Y.

This can be reworded in linear time order:

  • Since X, the setbacks prompted Y.

Simplified:

  • X => setbacks prompted Y

The next section goes into more detail on the meaning of since x, aka =>.


2. The meaning of since.

The problems with the sentence construction have been discussed at length

The other issue facing an English language learner is what definition to apply to since. Often, when since means after, it also implies some causality or important relationship between the event and what transpires thereafter. This is due to the very nature of logical reasoning, cause and effect, and time. Also, putting the since-phrase first creates a linear timeline:

  • I've needed a new coffee table ever since I broke my old one. Ever since I broke my old one, I've needed a new coffee table. broke old table => needed new table
    (Needed new coffee table after, but also implies the reason for needing the new coffee table.)

  • We haven't had contact since we broke up five years ago.
    Since we broke up five years ago, we haven't had contact. broke up => no contact (No contact after, but also implies lack of contact was initially because of the break-up.)

We can interpret OP's sentence as follows:

  • The setbacks since X have prompted Y.
  • Since X, the setbacks prompted Y.
  • X => setbacks prompted Y The setbacks occurred after X (and were initially because of X). X = the rebels disavowed it (by doing bad stuff)        Y = new calls for the president (to do stuff)

In other words, the entire sentence can be viewed as a series of events {X, setbacks, Y} on an absolute timeline, with some element of cause and effect between the events.

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