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Which one of the two following options sounds correct?

  1. She told him her dream that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

  2. She told him her dream that was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

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The first sentence lacks punctuation which disrupts the possibility of it sounding correct grammar-wise and the second sentence does not sound correct at all.

Justification:

The first sentence could work better if punctuation were added to create pauses and therefore change the subject/predicate of the sentence.

Right now the sentence has only one subject(She)and the predicate(told him her dream that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings).

But, if a comma were added after "her dream", the sentence could be split and then have two subjects and two predicates.

She told him her dream, that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

By simply adding in a comma, (her husband) be labeled as the second subject and the (would buy her a pair of diamond earrings) would act as the second predicate.


The second sentence cannot work with the first "that" utilized at the beginning, instead, the word should be completely removed. Restructuring the entire sentence would work best, adding in "of her" and taking out "would buy" also changed the tone of the sentence. It went from optimism and hoping for the earrings in the future ("would buy") to creating expectations and creating the mentality of manifesting mentalities (wishful thinking as well).

She told him her dream of her husband buying her a pair of diamond earrings.

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I don't think there's anything gramatically wrong with them, but I'm not sure they say what you want to say.

She told him her dream that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

This sounds like dream as in grand view of a wished for future, instead of the kind of dream one experiences while sleeping. For example

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." - Martin Luther King

Unless the woman in your sentance has very low ambitions, this probably isn't quite what was meant.

She told him her dream that was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

This suggests to me that the woman had a dream while she was sleeping, and in it her husband bought her some diamond earrings. That's what I think you mean, and I think it's gramatically correct, but it doesn't flow very well.

I might say

She told him about the dream in which her husband had bought her a pair of diamond earrings

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  • If you parse the second sentence as "... her dream that was ...", it could be read as a poetic way of recounting a former ambition. – Lawrence Oct 26 '15 at 14:09
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This sounds natural: She told him that, in her dream, her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

(The word "that" could be left off.)

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  • No, this doesn't sound natural to me. I'm non-native but a comma after that and after dream sound really wrong. There isn't a pause anywhere there. – SovereignSun May 4 '17 at 17:08
  • @SovereignSun -- or try a colon? "She told him: in her dream, her husband would..." (if there isn't a pause there, you could put one there. Think along the lines of: "She told him... in her dream, her husband" or "She told him-- in her dream, her husband"). Just take half a breath before the word "in", and you can see how the pause can be helpful in separating a couple of thoughts. – TOOGAM May 5 '17 at 2:08
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While we get your meaning, neither sounds right to this native speaker of American English. Looking at the following variations below, it seems necessary to convey that the story the character retold occurred in the context of a dream; that is, the events she recounts took place within the dream.

  • She told him of a dream wherein her husband bought her a pair of diamond earrings. @JoeDark

  • She told him of a dream [she had] in which her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

  • She told him of a dream [she had] within which her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

...and if nothing sounds right, a writer can always restructure the sentence:

  • She dreamed [had dreamt] she would receive a pair of diamond earrings from her husband, and she shared this with him.
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Here dream seems to mean "fervent wish", not the sleepy kind of dream, since the verb is would buy. Though it's not clear who him is. If "him" is intended to be the husband, and not another man, then the sentence has problems.

Let's rewrite the sentence with wish instead and assume that "him" is not her husband but someone else:

She told him her wish, that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

That's idiomatic.

She told him her wish, which was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

That's also idiomatic. "that was that" is awkward so I've changed it to "which".

Now let's make "him" her husband.

She told her husband her wish, that he would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

You could also say:

She told her husband that she wished he would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

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If the dreamer in the sentence has multiple dreams, and one of those dreams is that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings, and she tells a third person that particular dream, then the wording you gave in option 1 is perfectly fine:

She told him [the third person] her dream that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

If, on the other hand, the dreamer has only one dream (or only one dream that recurs or that she considers especially important)—namely, that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings—and she tells a third person that dream, then you could indicate the uniqueness or importance of the dream by making the part of the sentence following "She told him her dream" an independent clause (rather than a dependent one):

She told him [the third person] her dream, which was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

And just to muddy the waters further, you could express the same sense of the dream's importance to the woman by altering the sentence as follows:

She told him [the third person] that her dream was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

In no case, however, can I think of a circumstance where the wording you give as option 2

She told him [the third person] her dream that was that her husband would buy her a pair of diamond earrings.

—would be preferable (or even as good as) one of the three options noted elsewhere in this answer.

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