1. nomadagio
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    nomadagio New Member

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    How would you punctuate this sentence?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by nomadagio, May 29, 2009.

    Hello everybody,

    I have a bit of a trickly sentence that I'm having problems deciding how to punctuate. Here it is:

    They don’t die without food, nor do they need water – only, it seems, the light of the sun.


    The other options I can think of are:

    They don’t die without food, nor do they need water, only, it seems, the light of the sun.

    They don’t die without food, nor do they need water; only, it seems, the light of the sun.

    Really what I'm saying after the semicolon is 'They only need, it seems, the light of the sun.' which is a complete sentence with the 'they' and 'need' omitted.

    Any help gratefully received.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The problem here is that the word nor needs to be paired with the word neither. They are a team.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Wrey says, you should have 'neither...nor' to make the grammar sound, which entails re-wording, e.g:

    Neither insufficient food/starvation nor lack of water kills them; however, it appears that the light of the sun is lethal.

    But you'd probably want to re-word in a less academic way--I don't know what you are aiming for exactly.
     
  4. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    They need neither food nor water to survive, only the light of the sun.
     
  5. nomadagio
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    nomadagio New Member

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    I think you can use 'nor' outside of the structure 'neither... nor...'

    For example: I said I hadn't seen it, nor had I.

    This looks to be a similar structure to 'nor do they need...'
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. That seems to me to be an unfortunately oft used incorrect bit of idiomatic grammar.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but it's not totally incorrect... one's writing style can--often does--bend strict grammar rules successfully... and forgiveably... 'nor' works there just fine... what doesn't, is the part that comes next, which doesn't work because it's a positive, following two negatives... so, it has to be separated from them, with the contrast made clear... like this, for instance:

     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    We use neither...nor in negative sentences is to say that the same thing is true for two people/things/situations, e.g:
    Neither John nor Mary are English. (This means that both John and Mary are another nationality, not English.)

    So, in the example you gave, you MUST have neither…nor when it’s worded like this:
    They NEED neither food nor water to survive; only, it seems, the light of the sun.

    We can also use nor by itself after a NEGATIVE statement to show that what has already been said is true for the person/thing/situation in the statement beginning with nor as well:
    “Mary isn’t English and nor is John” (Mary is not English and John is also not English.)

    Which means when your example is worded like this, it goes:
    They DON'T DIE without food, nor without water; only, it seems, the light of the sun.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    maia was beating me to it, but I'm glad to see we're on the same lines!
     
  10. nomadagio
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    nomadagio New Member

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    Surely this is what I was doing?

    They don't die without food, nor do they need water - only, it seems, the light of the sun.

    The meaning is 'They don't need food, nor do they need water' but it avoids repetition of words.

    Thanks for the discussion everybody.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you still can't stick that positive ending phrase in the same sentence, following the two negative ones... it makes no sense that way...
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. Punctuation isn't te real problem, the problem is the sentence itself.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Why not make it simple?

    They live without food and water but die without the sun.



    Or something like that. Either way, if you are going to use the wording in your post, the first punctuation is best. Perhaps use a but clause?

    They don’t die without food, nor do they need water, but it seems, they need the light of the sun.

    They live without food and water, but it seems, they die without the light of the sun.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that would be ok, but the comma after 'seems' is incorrect, unless you set 'it seems' off with one at both ends...
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Maia, it feels like there should be a comma before "it seems" to me also, but the grammar.ccc site says this:


    When a parenthetical element — an interjection, adverbial modifier, or even an adverbial clause — follows a coordinating conjunction used to connect two independent clauses, we do not put a comma in front of the parenthetical element.

    The Red Sox were leading the league at the end of May, but of course, they always do well in the spring. [no comma after "but"]
    The Yankees didn't do so well in the early going, but frankly, everyone expects them to win the season. [no comma after "but"]
    The Tigers spent much of the season at the bottom of the league, and even though they picked up several promising rookies, they expect to be there again next year. [no comma after "and"]
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    regardless, as i said, the comma should not be there, as you've used it... there is no pause after 'seems' and i see no other reason for one being there...
     
  17. Kizza
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    Kizza New Member

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    If this is completely incorrect forgive me, would this not work:

    Neither food nor water did they need, only the light of the sun, or so it would seem.
    If you don't have to use the word "seem" then:
    Neither food nor water did they need, merely the light of the sun.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    those work for me...
     
  19. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    They needed neither food nor water, but couldn't survive without the light of the sun.

    There's my suggestion. (And look, no positive ending after two negatives! :-D)

    ~Lynn
     

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