exercise a? physical and psychological power over somebody

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lonesomecowboy

Senior Member
French
Hello, I need your help with the following sentence :

"In gothic fiction the setting and the victimizer usually exercise a physical and psychological power over the victim."

Is the use of the article "a" acceptable with the expression "to exercise power over", or is it better to say "they usually exercise physical and psychological power over the victim" ?

Thank you for your help.
 
  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    To me, it sounds better without the article. Physical and psychological power are two different things, so (in my opinion) you would need to say "a physical and a psychological power," which just adds to the length of the phrase with no additional meaning.
     

    lonesomecowboy

    Senior Member
    French
    Thanks for your help Florentia52. Is this problem with "a" due to the use of "exercise" ?

    Would it be possible to say "They have a physical and psychological power over the victim" ? Or is it the same problem ?
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    To me, the sentence sounds fine as written. The indefinite article makes it very clear that we are not talking about "power" in general, but instead a very particular kind​ of power. The sentence with "a" is more specific and sounds more academic.
     

    lonesomecowboy

    Senior Member
    French
    Thank you for your help lucas-sp.

    Indeed, what I mean is precisely that they exercise a specific kind of power that is both physical and psychological.

    So you would not repeat "a" twice as Florentia52 suggested. "a physical and psycholgical power" sounds fine to you ?
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Honestly, all three - physical and psychological power, a physical and psychological power, and a physical and a psychological power - are possible. The only difference is emphasis. I think I have a mild preference for the original version, but the other two work OK, too.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    So you would not repeat "a" twice as Florentia52 suggested. "a physical and psycholgical power" sounds fine to you ?
    I would not repeat "a" twice, because then we would be talking about two separate powers (given the structure of your sentence, a reader might think that you meant that the setting exercises a physical power, and the victimizer exercises a psychological power, over the victim).

    You are talking about one power with two facets, so "a physical and psychological power" seems perfect to me.

    Compare this situation to "a chocolate and banana tart": chocolate and banana are different things, but we're talking about one tart that has both of them in it. If we said "a chocolate and a banana tart," we would be talking about two tarts.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I would not repeat "a" twice, because then we would be talking about two separate powers (given the structure of your sentence, a reader might think that you meant that the setting exercises a physical power, and the victimizer exercises a psychological power, over the victim).

    You are talking about one power with two facets, so "a physical and psychological power" seems perfect to me.

    Compare this situation to "a chocolate and banana tart": chocolate and banana are different things, but we're talking about one tart that has both of them in it. If we said "a chocolate and a banana tart," we would be talking about two tarts.
    I agree. I'm just saying that while that the original seems to be talking about two facets of the same power, it's also possible to talk about two different kinds of power, a physical power and a psychological power. Both are possible, but if the intent is to talk about two halves of one power, the original a physical and psychological power is the correct way to write this. It comes down to the writer's intent, not which is wrong and which is right, because both are at least potentially correct.
     
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