Sunday, September 30, 2018

Antecedents, Referents, Reflexives...

So, in this sentence
the lizard bit down on the snake and prevented it from being eaten
what was not eaten?

Nope!

This snake captured a lizard, and began to eat it alive. As the lizard lost the use of its arms and legs by being swallowed, the lizard bit down on the snake and prevented it from being eaten.  Life or death fight and it's all depended on how long this motherfucker can bite down for. Eventually, the snake regurgitated the lizard and both left alive. This dude had no other choice than to prevail.  He adapted, and made shit happen and lived to fight another day.  #staythecourseHere's the whole awkward paragraph, in meme form (a King Snake trying to eat an Alligator Lizard, taken in 2014 (source of photo).

So clearly, it's meant to be the lizard. But nope. Just nope.
"It" can't be the lizard, not syntactically.

Pronouns go to the nearest referent - and that's "snake". Also, since "lizard" is the subject of "prevented", any pronoun referring to it has to be reflexive. That is, "itself". Using the reflexive pronoun directs the reader back to the correct antecedent.

There are, of course, a few more infelicities ("it's all depended", for one), but they don't mislead the reader.

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