The following sentences appears in Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth", first page in prologue.

"The small boys came early to the hanging. It was still dark when the first three or four of them sidled out of the hovels, quiet as cats in their felt boots."

Could anyone tell me what does the word "their" refer to, the first three or four of them or the cats? And why?

If it's cats, does "cats in felt boots" have any special implications? I mean cats already walk quitely without boots. Plus, if it's metaphor, I think cats have no fur in their palms---not quite similar to felt boots which have fur as bottoms.


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Cats walk quitely. But they are even more quiet when resting in their felt boots.
I would automatically assume that the word "their" refers to the small boys (three or four of them) and that the boys were wearing felt boots.

The fact that the boys were wearing felt boots helped them to be quiet as cats.
In their felt boots, the boys were quiet as cats.
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That's what I thought on my first read. But I was told that by the way the sentence is structured, "their" should mean "cats" to be more grammartically correct, or otherwise ambiguity arises. Any comment on that?
Okay, in a sentence like "Peter went to meet Mike, looking stylish in his new sunglasses" it's more ambiguous - you're not completely sure who has the new sunglasses, but you'd probably assume it's Peter, since the sentence is about him. But you can't be sure, because either Peter or Mike could wear sunglasses.

But really - do you think that cats wear boots?

(That was one of my favorite books. The bad guys are so, so bad. The good guys suffer so much. And hey, you learn how to build a cathedral in the process.)
Hi Infinik,

I understand that point, but I still think that most people would attribute the felt boots to the boys. The way I see it, any ambiguity here probably doesn't actually make much difference anyway. The mention of boots brings feet to mind, and I guess everyone knows how very quietly cats walk. And ultimately that is the picture the author is creating: walking very quietly -- like cats.
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Grammar GeekBut really - do you think that cats where boots?
Sorry, Barb, but I just couldn't resist reminding you of "". Emotion: stick out tongue Emotion: cat
Since it's almost bedtime, I now have visions of Antonio Banderas to keep me company. Thank you for that!
Yes, that should make for some sweet dreams. Emotion: smile
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