tell whoever it was that sent you that I'm busy.

JungKim

Senior Member
Korean
This is a quote from the movie X-Men:
Charles Xavier: I'm going to have to ask him to ask you to leave.
Logan: Well, I'm afraid I can't do that because I was sent here for you.
Charles Xavier: Well, tell whoever it was that sent you that I'm busy.
Logan: Well, that's gonna be a little tricky. Because the person who sent me was you.
In the third line, can you replace "whoever" with "anyone that"?
tell anyone that it was that sent you that I'm busy.
 
  • RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    "Tell the person that sent you that I'm busy" works better for me.

    But there is a reason why line #3 was used. Can you guess what the reason was? The line is idiomatic, after all.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I think the original text is getting modified.

    Both of these are fine for me:
    tell the person, that it was,* that sent you that I'm busy
    tell the person that sent you that I'm busy

    *clause. Not odd.

    That's how I understand the text.

    (In the usage of "who" from other posts, it changes the original text.)
     

    Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    Both of these are fine for me:
    tell the person, that it was,* that sent you that I'm busy
    tell the person that sent you that I'm busy

    *clause. Not odd.
    I'm sorry, but adding commas and calling it a clause does not make it correct.
    The OP took your definition of "whoever" ("the person") and then inserted it in the sentence with "that" without deleting "it was that."
    "...whoever it was that sent you..." BUT
    "...the person that sent you..."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You mean, "the person that" would work?
    tell the person that it was that sent you that I'm busy.
    "Whoever it was" can be replaced by "whatever person it was".

    I would be happy with "Tell whatever person it was that sent you that I'm busy". I don't think that can be reduced to "Tell the person it was that sent you that I'm busy", but perhaps it can.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    "Tell the person that sent you that I'm busy" works better for me.

    But there is a reason why line #3 was used. Can you guess what the reason was? The line is idiomatic, after all.
    I guess it was because Charles thought it hard to believe that anyone would send him back to the past from the future. Right??
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    No one, I guess, so far has said about the possibility of this:
    tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy.
    I mean, even if this is not exactly the same meaning as the third line, is this grammatically correct?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    No one, I guess, so far has said about the possibility of this:
    tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy.
    I mean, even if this is not exactly the same meaning as the third line, is this grammatically correct?
    Perpend answered that question in post #2. No, it does not work at all.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I guess it was because Charles thought it hard to believe that anyone would send him back to the past from the future. Right??
    Great answer. The word "whoever" emphasizes the fact that he doesn't know, and so when it turns out to be him there's more dramatic effect.

    tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy.
    I mean, even if this is not exactly the same meaning as the third line, is this grammatically correct?
    Edit: I find it grammatical but not very idiomatic. One could think up a situation where it could be used. And to me it implies there might be more than one person.

    Who sent you?
    Lots of people sent me.
    Well tell anyone who sent you I'm busy.




    Edited to clarify quotation. Cagey, moderator.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Tell anyone that sent you suggests that several people sent him, and he should tell all of them.

    Tell whoever sent you suggests that probably only one person sent him and that his identity is unknown to the speaker. In the right circumstances - like these, I suspect - the expression can give the sender a threatening quality; in other circumstances it can sound dismissive - tell whoever said this that they (singular) need their head examining.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy.
    I mean, even if this is not exactly the same meaning as the third line, is this grammatically correct?
    Edit: I find it grammatical but not very idiomatic. One could think up a situation where it could be used. And to me it implies there might be more than one person.
    Tell anyone that sent you suggests that several people sent him, and he should tell all of them.

    Tell whoever sent you suggests that probably only one person sent him and that his identity is unknown to the speaker. In the right circumstances - like these, I suspect - the expression can give the sender a threatening quality; in other circumstances it can sound dismissive - tell whoever said this that they (singular) need their head examining.
    At least two native speakers think that the modified sentence (tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy) is unnatural at best just because anyone implies that more than one person sent Logan. So, the reason for finding it unnatural is not because the modified sentence itself is unnatural but because only one person (i.e., Charles Xavier himself) sent Logan according to the context "subsequently revealed" as in line #4.

    If indeed that is the reason, I really don't understand. I mean, how could the validity of any sentence be determined by subsequent context, given that the speaker of that sentence is not yet aware of that subsequent context?

    What if line #4 were something like, "Well, that's gonna be a little tricky. Because those who sent me were you and your friends."? Then, the modified sentence with "anyone" would be natural, and the original with "whoever" unnatural?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    At least two native speakers think that the modified sentence (tell anyone that sent you that I'm busy) is unnatural at best just because anyone implies that more than one person sent Logan. So, the reason for finding it unnatural is not because the modified sentence itself is unnatural but because only one person (i.e., Charles Xavier himself) sent Logan according to the context "subsequently revealed" as in line #4.

    If indeed that is the reason, I really don't understand. I mean, how could the validity of any sentence be determined by subsequent context, given that the speaker of that sentence is not yet aware of that subsequent context?[...]
    I agree, JK, but then I see nothing wrong with the anyone sentence, unless the speaker knows that only one person sent him.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Using 'whoever' in this type of context implies that the speaker doesn't care who it was. It could be the Great and Glorious Master of the Universe for all the speaker cares.
    Changing 'whoever' isn't possible without changing the precise meaning.
    A similar idea could be conveyed by using 'whatever + noun'.
    "Congratulations!
    What for?
    I heard you and Elsie got married at long last
    You can tell whoever/whatever fool/idiot/nosey-parker told you, that I wouldn't marry Elsie if she was the last woman on earth."
     
    Using 'whoever' in this type of context implies that the speaker doesn't care who it was. :thumbsup: It could be the Great and Glorious Master of the Universe for all the speaker cares.
    Changing 'whoever' isn't possible without changing the precise meaning. :thumbsup:
    A similar idea could be conveyed by using 'whatever + noun'.
    "Congratulations!
    What for?
    I heard you and Elsie got married at long last
    You can tell whoever/whatever fool/idiot/nosey-parker told you, that I wouldn't marry Elsie if she was the last woman on earth."
    I agree/
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    What about "who" instead of "that" in the OP's question?
    That is, in the third line, can you replace "whoever" with "anyone who"?
    tell anyone who it was that sent you that I'm busy.

    Does this change make any difference in the acceptability of the modified sentence?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    What about "who" instead of "that" in the OP's question?
    That is, in the third line, can you replace "whoever" with "anyone who"?
    tell anyone who it was that sent you that I'm busy.
    NO. It's time to give up on trying to replace "whoever" with "anyone."
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    tell anyone who sent you that I'm busy.

    This sounds OK. Better than "anyone that." I guess if you REALLY wanted to stress something out of the ordinary you could say:

    Tell any (damned) person who sent you that I'm busy!

    But I go along with Glenfarclas. Is there a reason you can't use whoever?
     
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