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I came across this sentence:

"There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he has to be in my shoes today."

This was said when a person caught a rare insect.

If "if" or "when" is placed before "he has to be in my shoes today", I think it makes sense but this sentence doesn't have them. Is my understanding wrong?

  • Are you sure it says "by shoe"? Maybe "my shoes"? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 19 '16 at 17:07
  • Would you tell us where you found this sentence please? – ColleenV parted ways Apr 19 '16 at 17:11
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    The sentence makes no sense as is. But if we change "by shoe" to "my shoes" it would mean "No entomologist in the world would be unwilling to give everything he possesses in order to be in my shoes today", that is, in order to be able to claim this discovery for himself. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 19 '16 at 17:12
  • Do you understand the sentence now? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 19 '16 at 17:14
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    I think you are confused by he has. This part relates to all, as in all he has, everything he possesses, rather than to be as in he has to be. – njzk2 Apr 20 '16 at 2:23
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I think your confusion might just come from not understanding the idioms in the sentence, so I'll start by paraphrasing it.

There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he has to be in my shoes today

Since there is a double negative, we'll go ahead and reverse it. Hopefully this makes the sentence less confusing already.

Any entomologist would give all he has to be in my shoes today.

2 of the phrases left are give all he has and to be in my shoes.

You seem to be trying to split it into would give all and [if/when] he has to be in my shoes, and you are reading "has to" as "must". This is incorrect in context.

To give all he has is to sacrifice anything he owns. To be in my shoes means to be experiencing what the author is experiencing (catching the rare insect)

So the whole sentence simplified is:

Any entomologist would love to be in my situation

It should be clear there is no room for if or when in that sentence.

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    We can also say, for example, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes" and not just "in my shoes". It might not be clear to a learner that we can use that expression in both a positive or negative way and with other people, not just ourselves. – ColleenV parted ways Apr 19 '16 at 17:33
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    Thank you for your helpful answer. Yes, I am reading "has to" as "must" as you say but now I noticed it was wrong. – Yuuichi Tam Apr 19 '16 at 17:35
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No, this sentence is fine without an "if" or "when".

I think you are being confused by an incorrect parsing of "he has to be" present in this sentence. "He has to be" can mean "he is obligated to be" or "he is required to be".

However, in this example "has" and "to be" are actually separate. In this sentence, "he has" means that which he possesses (a hint here is "all he has").

Thus, the sentence can be rewritten: "There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't trade everything he owns for the opportunity to be in my shoes today."

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    Thank you for your helpful answer. I am reading "has to" as "must" but now I noticed it was wrong. – Yuuichi Tam Apr 19 '16 at 17:36
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There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he has to be in my shoes today.

The sentence is fine. It does not need an if or when before he has to be...

We could rewrite the sentence, slightly, and get

There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he possesses in order to be in my shoes today.

all he possesses is the direct object of the verb give

in order to be in my shoes today is a prepositional phrase that provides more information. This prepositional phrase could be moved to other places in the sentence, such as the beginning

In order to be in my shoes today, there isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he possesses.

with no change in meaning. The prepositional phrase could also be omitted and the sentence remain grammatical:

There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he possesses.

  • You skipped right over to be in my shoes, which completely removes the meaning in your final sentence. There isn't an entomologist in the whole world who wouldn't give all he possesses... for what? As it stands, the sentence seems to imply that entomologists are altruistic to a sacrificial degree. – GalacticCowboy Apr 19 '16 at 20:58

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