Is the subject omitted here?

Then my life fell apart. I divorced, my mother died too young, my son
went to jail, I quit my fancy career and, for the first time ever, had
enough time and space forced on me to pay attention. I started to
notice things, listen more carefully. (Kathy Holwadel)

(i) Is there a subject (I) omission, or a null-relativiser before forced?
(ii) Is this ‘forced on me to pay attention’ a type of ‘force something on/upon somebody, to make somebody accept something that they do not want’ (OALD)?


It’s a colloquially awkward sentence. The rough sense is quite clear to a native speaker, who slides past the awkwardness, but there’s just enough left out to make it very difficult for a NNS to parse.

As you discerned, the subject of the last part is omitted because it repeats the I in I quit. But as FumbleFingers points out, the verb of which that omitted I is the subject is not forced but had. So the independent clause we’re dealing with is

I had had enough time and space forced on me to pay attention.

I suspect you were trying to read forced as somehow governing to pay attention, but this is not the case—quite. There are two propositions here:

1. I had time and space forced upon me.
2. There was enough time and space to pay attention.

But #2 isn’t English. That construction implies that it was time and space which paid attention, which is nonsensical. There’s something missing; the author means either

2a. There was enough time and space [for me] to pay attention [to] … or
2b. There was enough time and space to [make me] pay attention.

I’m virtually certain that the author meant 2b. And that leads me to suspect that she committed the “inverse” of the mistake I suggested that you might be making. She was sitting there composing her sentence and right there on her page (or screen) were the words “forced on me” … and she finished her sentence under the impression that she had already written the equivalent of “make me”.

That’s just a guess, of course. But that’s a sort of mistake that’s often made in speech, and I know it’s a sort of mistake I make when I’m writing. When you’re speaking, or writing under time pressure, you’re not focusing on what you’re saying but on what you’re going to say next.

And of course it’s how people read, too. At this writing, 23 people have looked at this without noticing the mistake—including me, because I didn’t notice it until I had this answer three-quarters written, and had to go back and rewrite it from the beginning.

Source : Link , Question Author : Listenever , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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