I came across with sentence today:

Even she, who believed herself to be a revolutionary, could no more have broken her marital bangles than she could have driven a stake through her husband's heart.

I understand the meaning of this sentence. Here in this sentence two things are being compared. Both are negative sentences. The first sentence is no more than the second sentence. And ultimately giving out a meaning that both the sentences are not true.

But I wonder -

The second part, that the first is being compared with - "she could have driven a stake through her husband's heart." - have no negative, yet how it means negative.

How both the first part and second part tells out that both are impossible to her?

  • 3
    This is an extremely complex construction, involving (1) an overt negative (no), (2) a comparative quantifier (more), and (3) an epistemic or alethic modal auxiliary verb (would). This is serious, heavy-duty, industrial-strength grammar. Perhaps it would be better to master some of the more elementary grammar rules -- like Question Formation and Subject-Auxiliary Inversion, for instance -- before venturing where angels fear to tread.
    – jlawler
    Dec 24, 2013 at 21:24
  • This question is cross-posted from English Language Learners.
    – user2081
    Dec 25, 2013 at 1:50
  • @snailboat I did it intentionally, here I wanted to learn more of the grammatical structure and syntax. Dec 25, 2013 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


If you're asking about just the meaning of the sentence, rather than the technicalities of the syntactic structure, this is how it works: it isn't explicitly denied that "she could have driven a stake through her husband's heart", but this is such an extreme scenario that the reader is expected to assume that it is impossible. The first part about "breaking her marital bangles" is stated to be no more possible than the second, therefore it too is impossible.

(By the way, I think you mean you came across this sentence rather than came up with it - unless you're Amitav Ghosh, that is...)

  • I'm sorry, I "came across". :) I got the meaning, but I am looking for the structure, how it works and its formation syntax. Dec 25, 2013 at 1:47

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