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Old August 30, 2012, 11:17 AM
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aleCcowaN aleCcowaN is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Posts: 3,127
Native Language: Castellano
aleCcowaN is on a distinguished road
Imagine that as a subdued verb, or better, as a lively noun.

One thing that baffles English speakers is using indicative to introduce new information:

Me preocupa que lo acaban de despedir (new information)
Me preocupa que lo despidieran (known information)

In a sentence like "me preocupa que lo despidieran" we native speakers know that either who's saying it thinks that information is known or he is highlighting his feelings above the triggering fact itself. In everyday dialogues everything becomes quickly clear:

A - Me preocupa que lo despieran
B - ¡Cómo que lo despidieran! (or "¿Cómo?¿Lo despidieron?")
A - Claro ¿no sabías? Lo despidieron ayer
B - Cuéntame por qué fue (meaning "give me the facts; I'm not interested in your worries")

This being said, we can analyse the sentence from two perspectives:

When we read "Elizabeth tuvo la inesperada dicha de que sus tíos la invitasen a acompañarlos en un viaje que pensaban emprender en el verano", the fact that she was invited is a new one to us, but not to the character. Indeed, we come to know that fact through Elizabeth's reaction -it looks a typical novel- and also got to know that way it was a completely unexpected development.

On the other hand the sentence is designed in a way "que la invitasen a acompañarlos" is just a "thingy", the thingy that triggers that surprise, so "to be surprised" is the main action in the sentence and to be invited is just the action-thing referred.

Both interpretations are equally valid and they don't oppose each other. In fact, both are one and the same from a native subjunctive point of view.
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