Trying to write something concisely, I came across a quirk of English. I ran into an example where inserting a pause changes both the syntax of a sentence and its meaning.
Here’s the context. Sarah Wells married Joseph Randall, but Joseph died within a few years. After that, Sarah remarried. Her second husband was Louis Sear.
I was looking for a way to collapse the last 2 sentences into 1 sentence, for conciseness. Most of them didn’t work, for reasons given in the following table.
|Attempt||Reason it doesn’t work|
|She remarried.||Doesn’t say who her 2nd husband was|
|She married Louis Searl.||Doesn’t say (explicitly) that this was her second marriage—though the reader can infer this from the context.|
|She remarried Louis Searl.||Suggests she married LS twice.|
|Her remarriage was to Louis Serl.||Presupposes that a 2nd marriage had occurred, but doesn’t say that explicitly.|
|She remarried to Louis Searl.||Remarried (like married) takes a direct object that can’t be introduced by to.|
On the other hand, the following sentence seems fine to me: ‘She remarried—to Louis Searl’.
That sentence includes a pause (recorded in writing with the dash —). Including that pause has 2 odd effects:
- effect on syntax. The pause makes it possible to introduce the preposition to before Louis Searl. In other words, it turns what must normally be a direct object into a prepositional object that the verbs married and remarried cannot normally take.
That preposition to is the same preposition that follows the noun marriage (as in her marriage to Louis).
- effect on meaning. The pause removes the implication that Sarah married Louis twice.