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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.