turn the children loose


Senior Member
Hi. everyone.

They came in and rented in a community that does not have a playground and is not conducive to children. Then they expect the children to play in the driveways and parking lot,” says one HOA board member, who says she recently saw a little girl playing unsupervised on top of power meters. “You wouldn't see them playing the parking lot at Walmart or Kmart, but they come here and turn the children loose.”

I cannot understand the grammar structure "You wouldn't see.., but..."
And "turn the children loose" means "let children play without under direct control"?
Could you explain it for me?

  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This is another example of the kind of shift in construction you find in spoken language. It would be OK if they had used the nouns instead of the pronouns:
    You wouldn't see [the children] playing the parking lot at Walmart or Kmart, but [the parents] come here and turn the children loose.
    The problem is that we expect they in "they come here" to refer to them in "see them". That is the nearest antecedent. Instead, context tells us that it refers to the children's parents, who haven't been mentioned at all in the quote we are given. The speaker shifted her focus from the children to their parents without noticing that it affected the sentence structure. Probably if she had been writing this, she would have written it differently, or gone back to correct it.

    The shift causes a slight stumble, but is fairly understandable. It is not a model to follow, however.

    (Yes, "turn the children loose" means "let the children play wherever they want to without supervising them.")
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