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Grammar question: We just hadn't crossed each other's path (or paths) (2 Viewers)

cinderblock

Senior Member
Hi, I had a quick grammar question. Which one is correct?

A) We just hadn't crossed each other's path.

or

B) We just hadn't crossed each other's paths.

To me, A sounds more natural, but I figured I would ask the experts here 😊
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
Which one is correct?
I would have written...
B) We just hadn't crossed each other's paths.
because the "we" lends towards the plurals.

And then, once out on the page, I would have likely revised it into...

"Our paths simply had never crossed."

Because, to me, people don't cross; their paths do.
(and also the "simply" because I'm personally trying to not use "just" so much -- it's turning into a junk word)

That "likely" I qualified? It would depend upon the narrative voice. I broke that softly passive construction, which might be coloration, rather than simply an imprecise choice.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I don't think this is a grammar question due to the placement of "path/paths" at the end of the sentence. I believe the most natural choice, however, IS paths, for two reasons. First, if you reorganized the sentence, you might say "Our paths never crossed", where you would use path in a case like "We never crossed EACH other's path".

However, there are two other things going on in the sentence to consider ... both dependent on context.
1. "Just" is a filler word in the "just/simply" adverb combination. There should be a thought to eliminate it. However, you don't have to eliminate every adverb/filler word. If the surrounding content isn't full of them, you can be more relaxed about this decision.

2. "never crossed paths" is a cliche. As with number one, if it's the only cliche in sight and this isn't an important point in your narration, write the cliche and move on with life. Plus--just my opinion--you can get away with a bit looser writing in dialogue than exposition or internal dialogue, so if this is in dialogue you get the benefit of the doubt. You should always consider rewriting a cliche, but you don't always need to. "Just" (see, I can do it to :cool: ) make sure you don't hit the reader with a continuous stream of them.
 

KatPC

Senior Member
Hi @cinderblock
Welcome to the Forum.
When I first read the line, my initial reaction was something didn't sound write I made a quick note and wrote (maybe): 'Our paths never crossed.' This would sound much cleaner and clearer.

When reading the Wizards replies I found that I had copied their suggestions, but can see that you wanted a more softer style to the sentence?

...

I was pondering this line a little more, but can it be added to the sentence before? Like an afterthought? If so it may work as:

.... we just, never crossed each other's path.

That may depend on the sentence and if it sounds overworked with this extra line.
Sorry i'm confusing everyone!
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
If you omit "each other's", it might be clearer, as well as looking cleaner.

We just hadn't crossed paths (before?), but using the singular "path" looks correct when you use "each other's".

"Each other's" is a construct I would usually attempt to write around or simply omit completely, unless it's within the dialogue of someone who might say those words. "Just" is a filler word which may be hard to avoid at times, but I might look to writing around that as well. One that I need to work on is excessive use of "even". I guess we all have our little writing quirks :)
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I like to change the verb and noun to see it a bit differently if I get too caught up in a phrase.

A. We had not kicked each other's dog. (1 dog per person. If there are 2 people, then 2 dogs total)
B. We had not kicked each other's dogs. (More than one dog per person).

Tie it back to your question: In A they each own one path apiece. In B they each own multiple paths.

I was then worried about the apostrophe placement. You've got the apostrophe right, from what I read. I found this, which also might help:

P.S. (edit): Maybe the reason it's common to get this one wrong is because phases like "We hadn't crossed paths" are common, and in these phrases you aren't dealing with the words "each other's."
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I like to change the verb and noun to see it a bit differently if I get too caught up in a phrase.

A. We had not kicked each other's dog. (1 dog per person. If there are 2 people, then 2 dogs total)
B. We had not kicked each other's dogs. (More than one dog per person).

Tie it back to your question: In A they each own one path apiece. In B they each own multiple paths.

That is an excellent way of looking at the problem.

I would agree wholeheartedly with those who condemn the use of the mongrel word 'Just', it can mean almost anything, quantitative, qualitative or temporal and so usually adds nothing. I would keep it for just or unjust decisions.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
Hi, I had a quick grammar question. Which one is correct?

A) We just hadn't crossed each other's path.

or

B) We just hadn't crossed each other's paths.

To me, A sounds more natural, but I figured I would ask the experts here 😊
It's the structure that's the problem. Personally, I'd opt for the first version because it's defined as 'each other's', but if you flipped it: 'Our paths never crossed', then 'paths' fits better. Grammatically, it probably is correct to use 'paths' at the end but it sounds awkward the way you've written it.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
The only way I can think of how it might change is if you are in the first or third person. If first - as in your example - I would say "path", because there is only one "other thing" (path). The remaining path is "mine" and not belonging to any "other". If it's third person, I would say "paths" because there are then two paths under discussion.

I tried to use a simple example: "We went to each other's house" versus "we went to each other's houses." The latter would imply "we" each have multiple properties. But then "they went to each others' houses" seems right. Notice also that the possessive on "other" changed.

Maybe.
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
henever faced with such a conundrum, I seek an escape route:

It seems that the paths we travelled never intersected...

This maintains the plural and no longer anthropomorphises the paths.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
That is an excellent way of looking at the problem.

I would agree wholeheartedly with those who condemn the use of the mongrel word 'Just', it can mean almost anything, quantitative, qualitative or temp't quibble about St Just in Cornwall either.oral and so usually adds nothing. I would keep it for just or unjust decisions.
I wouldn't quibble about St Just in Cornwall either.
There are a few words like that I have to regularly remind myself to avoid or use sparingly - he wrote, using two adverbs.
 

cinderblock

Senior Member
Holy! I thought this was a very simple yes or no question. Never thought it would get this complex.

It seems like people here are split 50/50. I think I'll go with my instinct of "path" (singular), after all.

However, many have offered superior grammatical alternatives. Currently, I'm leaning on, "We just hadn't crossed paths" or "Our paths simply hadn't crossed," because it fits the narrative style.

I read and re-read all of your suggestions. I will keep in mind to minimize the use of filler words. Thank you so much for pitching in. Y'all are the masters.
 
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