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What is the meaning of this sentence?

I was reading something and just struck upon this sentence: "Should they be taught a lesson in their own ways immediately!" I am unable to figure out what exactly the speaker intends to convey. Is it a question(though I see no question mark but then there is the word 'should' in the beginning) or is it something else?

As for the context: the speaker is from country X. Country Y had captured some soldiers of Country X, the speaker's Homeland. Now, the speaker is posting on Facebook that the captives have been brutally killed by the Country Y. The sentence I have laid out above in the question is, actually, the caption of the FB post. The speaker apparently has a lot of following, too. He is referring to the citizens of Country Y when he says 'should they be taught'.

So, Is the sentence grammatically correct? Also, given that the phrase 'in their own ways' here probably means killing, what exactly is the speaker trying to say? And also, what is the tone of the speaker? Is it inciting?

Thanks for your help!


  • @Harten

    What is the meaning of this sentence?

    This is often the wrong question — even when the sentence is perfectly grammatical, conventionally punctuated, and written by a native speaker.

    what exactly is the speaker trying to say?

    This, as always, is the right question. But the answer can't be found in that sentence alone.
    We need to use every clue we can find in the context and in the rest of the text.

    You say it's the caption to a posting. A working hypothesises, then, is that it adds no information to the body of the text, but is simply intended to catch the eye,

    what is the tone of the speaker? Is it inciting?

    These questions can't possibly be answered on the basis of that one sentence.

    The exclamation mark gives a vague hint at the tone. It's emphatic in some way.
    But there is no proposition in the sentence, so we can't tell what the writer is trying to emphasise.

    The only course of action expressed in the sentence is they be taught a lesson.
    However this PASSIVE expression doesn't include an AGENT. So there is nobody to incite to 'teach them a lesson'.

    Either your questions are unanswerable or the answers lie in the body of the post.
    I can make some guesses.

    Should they be taught!
    The exclamation mark suggests that the — a speaker of the language of country X — does not mean it as a question.
    It's possible that he/she is

    • mistranslating a SUBJUNCTIVE in the language of X
    • bringing the MODAL VERB should to the front of the clause — on the mistaken analogy with may,
      as in May the King live for ever!
      or May you live interesting times!

    in their own ways
    This grammatical but meaningless.

    You are certain that they refers to the citizen body of country Y.
    So it might make sense to use SINGULAR in their own way.
    The PLURAL suggests that each citizen of has his or her own way.

    a lesson in
    The problem here is that in is grammatically ambiguous.
    It's quite likely that the writer intend it as part of the phrase in their own ways.
    But there's another interpretation — which is a reader more likely to make at first glance.
    Usually, a lesson in Z = 'a lesson on how to do Z'

  • HartenHarten
    edited July 2019

    Thank you, @DavidCrosbie! This will be of great help

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