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  1. The darkness, which had felt like it would last forever, gives way to dawn.
  2. The heavens open and light, which had seemed never to return, flows down.
  3. I could not help be overcome by wonder as I watched all creation, which had been swallowed by the darkness, come back to life.
  • What exactly puzzles you about them? – fluffy May 25 '13 at 9:41
  • I'm not sure if the sentences are grammatically/idiomatically correct. Something feels off to me but I can't figure it out. – Soulz May 25 '13 at 9:43
  • That should be could not help being overcome in #3. Personally, I think it's a rather odd thing to say. Partly because being unable to help experiencing some feeling, and being overcome effectively mean the same thing. Partly because you normally say you couldn't help doing something in contexts where if you could avoid it, you would. That wish to avoid the experience seems unlikely in OP's context. – FumbleFingers May 25 '13 at 18:14
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Yes, there's no grammatical problem writing them, but the sequence of tenses is not correct: you can't use past perfect and simple present in the same sentence, as you do in sentences 1 and 2; neither makes grammatical sense.

Even though the sequence of tenses is correct in sentence 3, it clashes with the simple present in sentences 1 and 2. You must be consistent about tense. That's not style, it's grammar.

In sentence 2, you need a comma after "The heavens open". If it's not there, you lead the reader down the garden path to believing that "open" is a verb rather than a noun which is the subject of the conjoined clause.

  • Thank you. So will they work, if I rewrite them in the following manner? 1. The darkness, which felt to last forever, gives way to dawn. 2. The heavens open, and light, which seemed never to return, flows down. 3. I could not help be overcome by wonder as I looked on as all creation, swallowed by the darkness, came back to life. – Soulz May 25 '13 at 9:59
  • @Soulz: No, your rewrite doesn't work either. This one is grammatical and stylistically consistent: "1. The darkness, which felt as if it would last forever, gave way to dawn. 2. The heavens opened, and light, which {seemed as if it / , it seemed, } would never return, flowed down. 3. I could not help {being / but be} overcome by wonder as I looked on and saw all creation, which had been swallowed by the darkness, come back to life." I make no claims about the quality of the prose, however. That's a personal judgment not mine to make. Just consider the grammar. I'm not a literary stylist. – user264 May 25 '13 at 10:06
  • So the biggest problem with the sentences was the mixing of the past perfect and present tenses within the same sentence. Thank you for the excellent answer. – Soulz May 25 '13 at 10:31

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