"He lay in the corridor, shot in the back"

Toby Frost

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I've just written the sentence "He lay in the corridor, shot in the back." and it looks wrong. The two sentences "He lay in the corridor. He had been shot in the back." are both fine. So why does putting them together seem wrong? Is it because "lay" and "shot" are different tenses (perfect and pluperfect, IIRC)?
 

The Judge

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I can't give you the grammatical reason, but I agree it doesn't read right.

The "shot in the back" itself feels wrong, running on from the previous clause, since it isn't complete. If it were "He was lying in the corridor, shot in the back." it would work because the "was" covers both the "lying" and the "shot" completing the verbs. Conversely, putting them into separate sentences, albeit a fragment for the second, could work within a certain prose style ie "He lay in the corridor. Shot in the back."

Personally, I'd rephrase to avoid the awkwardness.
 

Toby Frost

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I will rephrase it: it bothers me, but I can't quite figure out why. For some reason "He lay in the corridor, stabbed in the back" bothers me slightly less, although it's still not quite right, so maybe the past form of "shoot" is unusually irritating! That said, "He lay in the corridor, covered in blood" seems fine to me.
 

HareBrain

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I once thought the word "pea" looked wrong, so such feelings are not always trustworthy.

It might feel weird because you're thinking of "shot" as a verb, when it functions as an adjective (not sure that's the technically correct description). Structurally, the sentence is no different to "He lay on the floor, red in the face", which presumably wouldn't cause any problems.
 

Toby Frost

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You're right, it is some kind of adjective, because it's describing "him". Would "shot in the back" or "red in the face" be adjectival phrases, or is that something I just made up, like the science-fiction bit in Blackadder's Christmas Carol?
 

Phyrebrat

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I think it might be that lay is positional, and shot is the after-effect of an action. A short sentence like this with a comma used in this way would suggest the two are equal comparisons or a cause of one another but obviously they’re not explicitly so.

I think the problem is more to do with how we like to think logically, rather than a grammar problem.

I do agree tho, it does read odd.
 

paranoid marvin

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I think it's the use of 'shot' and 'lay' in one sentence. I'm struggling to find the right grammatical expression, but I think that because these words can have several meanings, can be verbs, adjectives and nouns and also describe what is happening in the present and in the past, they don't work well together. How about

"He lay slumped in the corridor, a bullet in his back"
 
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paranoid marvin

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I think it might be that lay is positional, and shot is the after-effect of an action. A short sentence like this with a comma used in this way would suggest the two are equal comparisons or a cause of one another but obviously they’re not explicitly so.

I think the problem is more to do with how we like to think logically, rather than a grammar problem.

I do agree tho, it does read odd.


I agree. Some sentences can be grammatically correct, but just don't read or sound right. Which is probably one of the reasons why we (usually) have lots of different words that mean the same thing, so we can choose a combination that we are comfortable with.
 

JS Wiig

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To me it’s because shot in the back feels like is referring to the corridor even though it obviously isn’t. And I don’t think shot functions as the verb in the clause which makes it a fragment. Shot in the back looks to be an adjective phrase.

Perhaps something like:

His body lay in the corridor with a bullet wound in his back. (don’t know if he’s supposed to be dead or not).

ETA

This feels like a more grammatically correct version of the original words as it puts the adjective next to its modifyee (but still awkward):

He lay shot-in-the-back in the corridor.

ETAII

It’s called a predicate adjective:
 
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Wayne Mack

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I suggest that lie is the more correct verb than lay and that lay is present tense while shot is past tense. Perhaps reword to something like, "He was lying face down in the corridor, having been shot in the back."
 

jjcomet

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In the corridor, shot in the back, his body laid.

I'm totally new to this, so accept this in that regard.
 

tinkerdan

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I think that it might work out better to put an extra comma in.
He lay, in the corridor, shot in the back.
However you could try.
Shot in the back, he lay in the corridor.
 

HareBrain

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Shot in the corridor, he lay on his back?

Or, supposing the floor is covered in many little lead balls...

Back in the corridor, he lay in the shot.
 

JS Wiig

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I consulted my grammar sources and they believe this is the most correct:

He lay shot in the back in the corridor.
 

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