Make mine a double

  • In his final years, Alexander Hamilton “spent as much time as possible drinking in the tranquility” of his northern Manhattan estate.

Yes, Hamilton was something of a drinker. But I think this is supposed to be about tranquility, not Tanqueray.

We English speakers love to attach a preposition to a verb to make sort of a new verb. So there’s drinking something, and then there’s drinking something in.

When I’m talking to you about someone drinking in the tranquility, you can hear my meaning in my tone of voice: I say “drinking in” with a certain emphasis on “in” which tells you I’m not talking about drinking.

But when I’m writing, you can’t hear my tone of voice. So I have to be careful about those two-word verbs.

  • Hamilton loved the tranquility of his estate, and spent as much time as possible drinking it in. With or without a gin and tonic.

Separating the two-word verb with an object (in this case, it) helps to keep things straight. And sober.

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