In one of the last Tolstoy's Anna Karenina novel's translations there is this following line:

Marian Schwartz:

she “clearly realized that he found offensive her hand, her gesture and the sound she was making with her lips.”'

Compared to some of the previous ones, I think this one is the best one.

For example:

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky:

she “clearly understood that he was disgusted by her hand, and her gesture, and the sound her lips made.”

Rosamund Bartlett:

she “understood clearly . . . that he was repulsed by her hand, her gesture, and the sound she made with her lips.”

The thing is, I'm not a native English speaker but still think that that one from Marian Schwartz could be improved a bit more. I'm thinking:

she “clearly realized that he found her hand, her gesture and the sound she was making with her lips offensive.”'

But as a non-Native English speaker I'm not sure if that's just because of my Spanish bias. Would all those things considered offensive be too much, too many, to have before the 'offensive' adjective?

Someone knows if there's a grammatical rule to support this? (not that I'd disagree with breaking grammar rules, but would like to know if there is one)


1 Answer 1


Your proposed improvement is technically grammatically sound, but poor style.

The problem is that "found" in English means many things. For instance, "he found her hand" can mean "he grasped her hand in his hand". Because of the ambiguity of "found", and the fact that the default meaning is "to have located something that was lost or hidden", the native speaker is going to make it almost all the way through the sentence with the wrong sense of "found" in mind, and have to re-parse it to make it make the right sense.

Most sophisticated readers can do this on the fly, but making them do it detracts from the smoothness of the sentence. Sometimes that can be desirable, as when the final word in a sentence is the punchline of a joke. But unless you have a specific stylistic reason to do it, then it is best avoided. Snugging that "offensive" right up after "found" makes parsing the rest of the sentence nearly effortless.

  • Also, I just want to confess: I do this thing all the time in my writing, because it's apparently how I think in English. Because I value readability, I wind up fixing them on edit. Apr 21, 2016 at 3:38
  • Cool! Very interesting, and what would you say about: "she “clearly realized that her hand, gesture and the sound she was making with her lips were offensive to him.”'" Sorry, I just love being that pedantic :) I'm just not sure why, but "he found offensive her hand," just sounds weird to me. Would you disagree?
    – jpablobr
    Apr 21, 2016 at 5:43
  • Hey, just wondering if you know. Any book recommendations about this type of sentence construction? Or you just went by gut, being a native English speaker?
    – jpablobr
    Apr 21, 2016 at 9:11
  • @jpablobr - As a native US English speaker, I agree that "he found offensive her hand" sounds a bit stilted. More normal speaking word order would be "he found her hand offensive".
    – stangdon
    Apr 21, 2016 at 14:04

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