Tear down a complicate sentence

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janexi

Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

I've encountered a long sentence which is very complicated for me to read.

The principle of proportionality is a political maxim which states that no layer of government should take any action that exceeds that which is necessary to achieve the objective of government (Regardless of intent of objective).

I guess it may could be teared apart like this:

The principle of proportionality is {{{ a political maxim {{ which states {that no layer of government should take any action [[ that exceeds [ that which is necessary to achieve the objective of government ] (Regardless of intent of objective).

but I am not sure. Besides, I don't quite understand in this sentence that which in the [] stands for?

Could anyone help? Thanks.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, you have the structure right. It's long, but it unfolds easily enough with new subordinate clauses being added to the right. What can be confusing is that the third use of 'that', in 'that which', is the demonstrative, pronounced [ðæt] - it's not the clause subordinator as it is in the previous two occurrences.

    'That' here relates back to something earlier in the sentence; often it could be rendered "the one" ('The car on the left is bigger than that on the right'), but here that doesn't quite work. What it refers to is only implicit: any action that exceeds the amount which is necessary (or something similar to 'amount' of action). I suppose you could think of it as standing for the action: any action that exceeds such action as is necessary . . .
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    If we deconstruct the sentence we can break it down into separate thoughts. I find this easier to manage than your multiple brackets (though there's nothing wrong with them).
    1. There is a political maxim called the principle of proportionality.
    2. This principle states that no layer of government should take any excessive action.
    3. Such an excessive action would be one which goes beyond what is necessary to achieve the government's objective.
    4. This applies regardless of the intention behind the objective.

    Some might object to my use of 'what', but I have used it in place of 'that which' in an attempt to make this complicated sentence clearer. I hope that helps!
     

    janexi

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks entangledbank. Thanks Elwintee. Now I have more confidence to read it through.

    For not to misunderstand the clauses, may I say this sentence implied "government should not do what is not necessary to be a government"? This phase "any action that exceeds that which is necessary to achieve" is so long and why should it have so many that?


    Furthermore,

    4. This applies regardless of the intention behind the objective.

    Elwintee, does this mean the principle of proportionality? Could you also give me a hint what the objective is? The government?

    Thanks again!
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Thanks entangledbank. Thanks Elwintee. Now I have more confidence to read it through.

    For not to misunderstand the clauses, may I say this sentence implied "government should not do what is not necessary to be a government"? This phase "any action that exceeds that which is necessary to achieve" is so long and why should it have so many that?


    Furthermore,

    4. This applies regardless of the intention behind the objective.
    Elwintee, does this mean the principle of proportionality?
    ['This' in (4) applies to the whole of (3).]


    Could you also give me a hint what the objective is? The government? [The objective of the government is not specified (as is often the case in real life!), so who knows what the government has as an objective?]
     

    janexi

    Member
    Chinese
    Hi Elwintee,

    May I insert the regardless in the sentence as :

    3. Such an excessive action
    would be, regardless of the intention behind the objective (of the government), one which goes beyond what is necessary to achieve the government's objective.

    I am still kind of lost in what is
    necessary.....


     
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