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(Code and Color Key)

Selection # 2 from 
Robert L. Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers
Analysis Key

     Two semicolons separate three "if" subordinate clauses in one 141-word main clause. It may be that, as I write this I am tired, or it may be that I am stupid, or it may be that I too have been "trained" by reading to write longer main clauses, but I cannot figure out how to decombine this sentence and arrive at essentially the same meaning. It might be interesting to have your students try.

[Adv. to "would be" If . . . the choice were to be made [#1] {between Communism [#2]

{with all its chances}, and the present state {of society} {with all its sufferings and injustices}}

[#3[Adv. to "would be" if the institution {of private property} necessarily carried {with

it} {as a consequence}, [DO of "carried" that the produce {of labour} should be

apportioned (P) [Adv. to "should be apportioned" as we now see it (DO)] [#4], almost

{in an inverse ratio} {to the labour} -- the largest portions *going* [#5] {to those} [Adj. to 

"those" who have never worked {at all}], the next largest *portions going* [#5]

{to those} [Adj. to "those" whose work is almost nominal (PA)], and so {in a 

descending scale}, the remuneration dwindling [#6] [Adv. to "dwindling" as the work

grows harder (PA) and more disagreeable (PA), [Adv. to "grows" until the most

fatiguing and exhausting bodily labour cannot count {with certainty} {on being able [#7]}

to earn even the necessaries [#7] {of life}]]]]; [#3] [Adv. to "would be" if this or

Communism were [#1] the alternatives (PN)], all the difficulties, great [PPA] or

small [PPA] , {of Communism} would be {as dust} {in the balance}. |

1. This verb is in the subjunctive mood, essentially expressing an idea contrary to fact -- the choice does not have to be made.
2. The normal KISS notation for placing parentheses around prepositional phrases breaks down here because the two objects of "between" ("Communism" and "state") are each themselves modified by prepositional phrases.
3. Note the semicolons that separate subordinate clauses.
4. To keep it as simple as possible, I am ending this clause here and am assuming that "in an inverse ratio" -- and everything that goes with it -- chunks to "should be apportioned." It would, however, be equally valid to consider "in an inverse ratio" -- and everything that goes with it -- as chunking to "see." This explanation would extend this clause all the way to the next semicolon.
5. "Portions *going* is a noun absolute. Grammar textbooks do not deal with sentences such as this one, so it is difficult to say how they might explain the function here. Some people will see these two absolutes as adverbial to "should be apportioned," but others will see them as appositional to "inverse ratio."
6. "Remuneration dwindling" is a noun absolute that functions as an adverb to the ellipsed "going."
7. "Able" is a predicate adjective after "being" which is a gerund that functions as the object of "on." The infinitive "to earn" functions as an adverb to "able," and "necessaries" is the direct object of the infinitive.