Correct use of “having seen”

Eddy,

Welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

I don't see anything wrong with your example sentence.  I can think of a number of ways it could be rephrased, but they wouldn't necessarily be improvements.

Is this from a piece of prose that you are writing?

DocV

eddyautomatic posted:

Am I using “having seen” correctly in the sentence below?

”The images were etched in his memory from having seen them every day for as long as he could remember.”

Hello, Eddy, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange!

I am moderately OK with the example as written, so this should not be interpreted as a disagreement with DocV. I would, however, like to say that I think the implied subject of "having seen" is technically unclear.

We know that you intend it to be the man referred to by "his." Syntactically, though, "his" doesn't dominate the "having seen" phrase. That's why its implied subject is unclear. The sentence is equivalent to this:

(A) ?? From having seen them every day for as long as he could remember, the images were etched in his memory.

In that sentence, I have simply moved the adverbial "from"-phrase to the front of the sentence. From a strict grammatical standpoint, the sentence says that the images did the seeing, and that is, of course, impossible.

One way you could fix the problem is by giving the gerund its own subject:

(B) The images were etched in his memory from his having seen them every day for as long as he could remember.

But the repetition of "his" is perhaps undesirable. I like the following much better:

(C) He had the images etched in his memory, having seen them every day for as long as he could remember.

Good job, David.  As I wrote earlier,

I can think of a number of ways it could be rephrased, but they wouldn't necessarily be improvements.

But your (B), and even more so your (C), are definitely improvements.

But now that you have cleaned up certain syntactical issues, you lay bare some possible contextual issues.

Eddy's original:

: The images were etched in his memory from having seen them every day for as long as he could remember.

David's (so-far) final revision:

C: He had the images etched in his memory, having seen them every day for as long as he could remember.

(Eddy, I've learned over the course of time that in discussions like this, it can be helpful to assign an index letter or number to any example in order to facilitate referring back to it, even though it may seem at the time that your (1) might not have a corresponding (2), or your (A) a corresponding (B).  Since David has introduced his variants (A), (B), and (C), I've taken the liberty of using the only "pre-A" character I could think of, the "null" symbol (), to refer to your original example.  I hope you're okay with this.)

In Eddy's (), I see that, at this particular point in time in the narrative, the etching of the images into the character's memory remains a continuing process.  They are a result of his having been exposed to these images every day from the time of his earliest ability to recollect, up to and including today.  It is strongly implied that he has been and continues to be forced by some "other" to look at these images every day.

David's (C) suggests another possibility.  His phrasing could be understood to mean something similar to (), but it can also be understood to mean that the images come unbidden to the forefront of the character's mind every day, and that this is evidence of the fact that these images were deeply etched in his memory some time ago.

Only the author knows which interpretation was intended, and only he can offer further insight, perhaps by offering further context.

DocV

PS: Eddy, this forum is generally not about manuscript editing.  All of us are working on a volunteer basis, which means without pay.  Since you say that you've already written the novel, but are still asking for advice about some of the fine-tuning of some phrases, I would guess that you already have an editor (even the best of us benefit from a second pair of eyes) but that your novel is as of yet unpublished.

If you want, I might be able to offer my services as editor, but it would have to be separate from my function as an official agent of the Grammar Exchange.  In fact, I'm not even sure that it's appropriate to advertise myself in this way.  However, forgiveness is often more easily obtained than permission.

Because of my position on the Grammar Exchange, I can access your e-mail address and contact you privately, but only if you give permission.

If you don't need my services as an editor but feel that you owe a debt of gratitude, I would be honored if you would send me an autographed copy of the first edition, after it's published.

Hi Doc V,

Thank you for the helpful top-up. The latter is correct, per David’s suggestion. I suspect my original phrasing was misleading, hence my appeal for help.

Feel free to email me some info on the editing services you offer. I have an agent who acts as a first-round editor, but I like to ensure the manuscript is polished before sending her way. I’d be interested in getting the first 50 pages or so edited, depending on your rates. Testimonials and reviews would also be helpful.

Thanks to both you and David for your assistance!

Eddy

 

 

 

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