My 14 year old daughter is diagramming sentences in her English class. She asked me to give her a few sentences to diagram so she could prepare for tomorrow's quiz. So I gave her the sentence:

The old man the boat.
Well, of course, she argued with me about how that was not a proper sentence, that I was doing it wrong, and really I wasn't that good of a father after all. After about 10 minutes of my insisting that it was indeed a proper sentence and she just had to look a bit harder, I saw the light dawn on her face. "Oh, I see, 'man' can be a verb."

If she asks me for another sentence (which I rather doubt), I'll give her this one:

The horse raced past the barn fell.

Update: Chris argues that 'raced past' is better than 'ran past', I agree.


That is a tricky one, but it will force her to think more then just diagram away.


Posted by Dan Lacher on September 21, 2004 at 07:46 AM EDT #

Surely you mean 'The horse raced past the barn fell' ?
I.e. 'The horse, which was raced past the barn, fell (over)'

if you insert the implied 'which was' into your sentence, you can see that the correct tense would be 'run', which removes the ambiguity. Unless you're assuming that there's a thing called a 'barn fell' (A fell is, of course, a hillside, but a 'barn fell' doesn't really make sense).

Of course, I'm probably missing a blindingly obvious alternate parse...

Posted by Chris May on September 21, 2004 at 08:19 AM EDT #


You are right that the more canonical form is 'raced past', but I do believe there's a good parse for 'ran past' as well. Consider this:

Bob walked a horse past the house. Joe ran a horse past the barn. The horse ran past the barn fell.

Thus there's an implied 'which he' as so:

The horse, [which he] ran past the barn, fell.

But I agree 'raced past' is better, so I'll switch it.

Posted by Paul on September 21, 2004 at 08:33 AM EDT #

That latter sentence hurt my brain. The only way I could parse it was, "the horse race past; the barn fell."

Posted by Ron Yang on September 21, 2004 at 12:25 PM EDT #

My secretary makes tea and ends meet.

Posted by jez on November 05, 2004 at 05:14 AM EST #

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