...e-mails had been intercepted expressing a desire...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by shiness, Aug 22, 2006.

  1. shiness Senior Member

    Korean, South Korea.
    Hi.

    I truly appreciate your help and concerns last night over my question, :) yet I've met another complicated english to my knowledge.

    The following is a detached part of news release on the web.

    In late May, investigators from the Boulder district attorney's office approached the Ramseys with information that one or more e-mails had been intercepted expressing a desire to meet with them, according to their family attorney Lin Wood.

    While the overall meaning of the sentence itself appears clear to me, I don't understand its structure at "one or more e-mails had been intercepted expressing a desire to meet with them".

    Particularly, I wonder how the "expressing a desire to meet with them" could come right behind "one or more e-mails had been intercepted" without any subjective? relating to who's actually expressing a desire there. I can't really link that "a desire to meet with them" to anything.

    I understand what the author makes out of the context still, some points
    like that draw my attention and not make the whole point grammartically
    clear.

    Thanks in advance. :)
     
  2. elroy

    elroy Imperfect Mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "Expressing a desire to meet them" refers to "one or more e-mails." That is, "one or more e-mails expressing a desire to meet with them had been intercepted."

    In English, a long participial modifier is frequently post-positioned (positioned after the verb) to avoid confusion.
     
  3. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    elroy's response was excellent. I'd just like to add that it is the "them" that bothers me. It is ambiguous. It could be read as "them=the investigators" or "them=the Ramseys." I assume it means the Ramseys, but it is not clear. "...expressing a desire to meet with the couple" would have made it very clear.
     
  4. shiness Senior Member

    Korean, South Korea.
    I agree with you JamesM. I had to read on through the article to find out
    what the "them" exactly was indicating, and here it is.

    "The Ramseys had told investigators they were willing to meet with the person if doing so would assist the investigation. "

    English's indeed hard...:D

    And thank you for your clear explanation elroy.
     
  5. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    Journalistic writing is particularly difficult to understand, especially in newspapers. They often have a very limited space for the article and a large number of facts to express in that short space. They tend to compact the sentences to the point of bursting. :) I certainly don't eny their task, though. I wouldn't want to be the one who had to cover a complicated story in 300 words, maximum.
     
  6. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    This helps:

    "Karr e-mailed Ramseys"

    It comes right before the sentence in question. But I still don't like it:

    In late May, investigators from the Boulder district attorney's office approached the Ramseys with information that one or more e-mails had been intercepted expressing a desire to meet with them, according to their family attorney Lin Wood.

    I would at least prefer this:

    In late May, investigators from the Boulder district attorney's office approached the Ramseys with information that one or more e-mails expressing a desire to meet with them had been intercepted, according to their family attorney Lin Wood.

    In my opinion a lot of confusion comes from inserting "had been intercepted" in the middle. Changind the word order makes it much more clear (at least to me) that "one or more e-mails" refers to the "Ramseys".

    Gaer
     

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