7

"You know," I ventured, "when I saw you perform, I got the feeling that singing lets you jump over the fences of your life the way writing does for me."

Please notice the end of that sentence.

  1. How is "the way writing does for me" related to the other parts of the sentence? And what does it meaning?

  2. If 'does' (in "...does for me") acts as a verb, what is its subject? How do I find its subject?

  3. What is the common name (as a grammatical term) for the phrase "the way writing does for me."

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Mar 18 '15 at 16:03

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

  • does for me = lets [me] jump over fences in [my] life. the way = in the same way that. "I got the feeling that singing lets you jump over fences of your life in the same way that writing lets me jump over fences in my life." – Ian MacDonald Mar 13 '15 at 18:26
  • 2
    As @IanMacDonald says, and specifically, the rule of elision involved is VP deletion: [ ... does [VP let me jump over fences in my life] for me ], where "does" is the auxiliary verb that must remain to express the tense, and the principle which permits the deleted VP to differ from the antecedent VP by having "me"/"my" is sloppy identity, named and discussed by John Ross in his MIT dissertation, Constraints on Variables in Syntax. – Greg Lee Mar 13 '15 at 18:57
  • And, in answer to your question, it's an adverbial phrase. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 14 '15 at 11:43
  • 1
    Wow, this is actually a good grammar question! A tough one to explain, but definitely a good one. I'm surprised they (EL&U) didn't keep it, because it will probably take some heavy grammar and linguistics to explain this in a comprehensible way. – F.E. Mar 18 '15 at 16:17
2

"You know," I ventured, "when I saw you perform, I got the feeling that singing lets you jump over the fences of your life the way writing does for me."

I got the feeling = the vaguely-defined idea came into my head

singing lets you jump over = singing allows you to surmount/overcome

the fences of your life = the obstacles/setbacks in your life

the way writing does for me = just as writing does for me = in the same manner that writing lets me jump over my "fences"

1
  • Singing lets you jump over the fences of your life.  Writing lets me jump over the fences of my life.

  • Singing lets you jump over the fences of your life [in] the way [that] writing lets me jump over the fences of my life.

There is a lot of ellipsis in the original sentence which my examples above might help clarify.  "Singing" and "writing" are the subjects of their respective clauses.  The predicates of those clauses are nearly identical -- same verb, same infinitive phrase.  The differences are objects -- "you" and "your life" in the first, "me" and "my life" in the second.

To avoid unnecessary repetition, we'll keep only the elements of the second clause that are different.  We'll keep the subject "writing".  We'll replace the verb "lets" with "does".  The rest we'll lose to ellipsis.  This gives us a second clause that's almost correct:

  • [that] writing does [let you jump over the fences of your life]

We need some way to change the references in the objects, because we want this clause to mean:

  • [that] writing does [let you me jump over the fences of your my life]

We do that by adding "for me" to the elliptical clause:

  • [that] writing does for me

Even after all these omissions and revisions are made, we're still left with a relative clause which modifies "the way".  The subject remains "writing".  The verb "does" stands for the entire predicate of the original clause.  The prepositional phrase "for me" modifies the verb "does", in effect changing the objects of the omitted predicate.

In turn, "the way" acts as if it's the object of a preposition.  The construction "the way writing does for me" modifies the clause "singing lets you jump over the fences of your life."  Everything from "that singing" to the end of the sentence is a relative clause that modifies "feeling", which itself is the direct object of the verb "got".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.