Archived in 2022

Originally posted on 06 Jan 2007

The song Don’t Stand So Close to Me just came up in the randomized playlist. There’s a line in there which has always intrigued me because it can be read in two ways:

You know how bad girls get

A primary parsing:

  • You: 2nd person singular/plural personal pronoun acting as the subject
  • know: 1st/2nd person singular/plural active present indicative verb acting as…well, it’s the verb after all
  • how bad girls get: dependent clause acting as the direct object of the transitive verb know

It’s that dependent clause which interests me. Does the bad go with the how or with the girls? In the context of the song either would work:

You know how bad girls [can] get.

As compared to:

You know how bad girls girls [can] get.

(Note I added the gapped [can] in the above sentences to get everything out in the open)

See? It works either way. But which is the way the The Police intended it?