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The detective watched the woman bury the body of the person she had killed from behind a tree, taking pictures of what was going on.

Does the above sentence imply the detective watched the woman bury the body of the person she had killed from behind a tree (the detective was hiding behind the tree) while taking pictures of how the woman was burying the body.

Is the above given sentence grammatically correct?

  • Who's the they? – Nihilist_Frost Jun 6 '16 at 23:05
  • Sorry, i'll correct that right away. – lekon chekon Jun 6 '16 at 23:09
  • How about now? @Nihilist_Frost – lekon chekon Jun 6 '16 at 23:10
  • The only thing that can safely be said about 'the detective' is that 'he watched'. All the modifying clauses can easily be read to apply to 'the woman'. Overall, you are trying to stick too much information in one sentence. Try breaking it up into two sentences and use less participial phrases. – Alan Carmack Jun 7 '16 at 1:01
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The sentence in your example is not a well formed sentence and is ambiguous but is grammatically correct. The problem is with the placement and association of one of the prepositional phrases

from behind a tree

Syntactically correct but semantically questionable.

Most readers would probably assume the detective was the person "behind a tree" (especially if there had been a "," after killed to offset the prepositional phrase), since that's what detectives do: sneak around. They also take pictures for evidence.

However, a second alternative is that the woman, acting as a sniper, shot someone while hiding "behind a tree".

A better phrasing for the first alternative might be

The detective took pictures, while hiding behind a tree, of the woman burying the body of the person she had killed.

"Watched" is implied from "took pictures", since one must "watch" in order to take pictures.
"What was going on" is understood implicitly, why else take pictures?

Better phrasing for the second alternative would be to break it up into two sentences

The woman shot someone while hiding behind a tree.
The detective took pictures of the woman burying the victim.

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We had a question here the other day about locative complements. They should be relocated whenever clarity is the writer's intention and there is more than one candidate phrase for the complement to complete.

I have removed "from" so that "bury" can also be eligible.

Behind a tree the detective watched the woman bury the body of the person she had killed.

The detective watched behind a tree the woman bury the body of the person she had killed.

The detective watched the woman bury the body of the person she had killed behind a tree.

The detective watched the woman bury behind a tree the body of the person she had killed.

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