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Hi all,

I hope to get your responses on the following:

1. “He was standing in front of the fire, round-shouldered, his hands in his coat pockets, his feet thrust into a pair of Ravelston’s slippers which were much too big for him.”

- Is “round-shouldered” an adjective modifying “He” here, not an absolute like the next phrases in the sentence?

- Had it better be placed near “He”? “Round-shouldered, he was standing . . . “

2. “He, bold in resolve, planned to win her over.”

“Anton and Lacey met, completely unaware of their love for one another.”

“Anton continued to stand there, entranced by her spell

-Are “bold in resolve,” “completely unaware of their love,” and “entranced by her spell” adjective phrases modifying only the nouns/pronouns (“He” or “Anton and Lacy” or “Anton” here)?

- I saw some websites mentioning “completely unaware of their love” and “entranced by her spell” as absolute phrases, meaning they modify the entire main clauses. But I find no leading nouns here as the absolute phrase construction demands (a noun plus a modifier—participle or not), only adjectives. Please help clarify with possibilities of absolute phrases without a leading noun.

Thank you

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flora123

1. “He was standing in front of the fire, round-shouldered, his hands in his coat pockets, his feet thrust into a pair of Ravelston’s slippers which were much too big for him.”

- Is “round-shouldered” an adjective modifying “He” here, not an absolute like the next phrases in the sentence? Yes.

- Had it better be placed near “He”? “Round-shouldered, he was standing . . . “ No. That is not necessary nor advisable.

flora123

2. “He, bold in resolve, planned to win her over.”

“Anton and Lacey met, completely unaware of their love for one another.”

“Anton continued to stand there, entranced by her spell

-Are “bold in resolve,” “completely unaware of their love,” and “entranced by her spell” adjective phrases modifying only the nouns/pronouns (“He” or “Anton and Lacy” or “Anton” here)? Yes.

flora123- I saw some websites mentioning “completely unaware of their love” and “entranced by her spell” as absolute phrases, meaning they modify the entire main clauses. But I find no leading nouns here as the absolute phrase construction demands (a noun plus a modifier—participle or not), only adjectives. Correct.

Not all websites use the same definitions for these constructions. More typically, any construction that is called "absolute" starts with a noun phrase (NP). I would stick to that definition, and it seems to me that that it what you are doing.

A more narrow definition says that an absolute construction must not only start with an NP, but it must also contain a participle. Thus it is a special kind of participle clause.

A less narrow definition of the absolute construction allows any kind of phrase to follow the NP (but it's most often an adjective phrase). Some linguists call these small clauses.

flora123Please help clarify with possibilities of absolute phrases without a leading noun.

The only places you will find those possibilities is on websites that have very loose and vague definitions. If I were you, I would ignore those websites.

CJ

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flora1231. “He was standing in front of the fire, round-shouldered, his hands in his coat pockets, his feet thrust into a pair of Ravelston’s slippers which were much too big for him.”- Is “round-shouldered” an adjective modifying “He” here, not an absolute like the next phrases in the sentence? - Had it better be placed near “He”? “Round-shouldered, he was standing . . .

Not quite. "Round-shouldered" is a compound adjective, but its function is that of predicative adjunct, not modifier.

It's predicative because it refers to a predicand, in this case the subject "he". Compare the predicative "He was round-shouldered".

More precisely, it is a supplement, a loosely attached element detached by punctuation such as commas and a slight pause in speech.

Its linear position is fine -- it's perfectly clear that it refers to "he".

flora1232. “He, bold in resolve, planned to win her over.”“Anton and Lacey met, completely unaware of their love for one another.” “Anton continued to stand there, entranced by her spell”-Are “bold in resolve,” “completely unaware of their love,” and “entranced by her spell” adjective phrases modifying only the nouns/pronouns (“He” or “Anton and Lacy” or “Anton” here)? - I saw some websites mentioning “completely unaware of their love” and “entranced by her spell” as absolute phrases, meaning they modify the entire main clauses. But I find no leading nouns here as the absolute phrase construction demands (a noun plus a modifier—participle or not), only adjectives. Please help clarify with possibilities of absolute phrases without a leading noun.

The same analysis applies here, cf: "He was bold in reserve" / "Anton & Lacey were completely unaware ..."

They cannot be absolute clauses since they have no subject, cf: "His hands gripping the door, he let out a volley of curses".

Absolutes are non-finite clauses that contain a subject, though it is possible for the verb to be missing; for example "His face pale with anger, he stormed out of the room" is the verbless analogue of the above example.

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Comments  

Thank you. The absolute construction is more clear to me now.

I just wonder if a supplement (a loosely attached element) could be placed before the noun/pronoun it refers to:

“Sad and confused, she stepped out of the room.”

We could normally say: “She stepped out of the room, sad and confused” as adjectives here seem in a fine linear position.

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Thank you so much for your quick and clear reply. I will be careful with the websites that have vague definitions and examples on absolute phrases.

I just wonder about the placement of adjectives (not attributive ones). Could they be placed around the subject in some cases, which can emphasize the status of the subject, or avoid confusions about what coming next in the sentence? Since for “Round-shouldered, he was standing . . .” you said “That is not necessary nor advisable.” Sorry about this little side question.

flora123I just wonder about the placement of adjectives (not attributive ones). Could they be placed around the subject in some cases, which can emphasize the status of the subject, or avoid confusions about what coming next in the sentence?

If I understand your question correctly, then yes, you can put an adjective before the subject in some cases.

It's just that it is not stylistically effective to use a descriptive adjective like "round-shouldered" before a pronominal subject like "he". This is perhaps opinion more than fact, as are many elements of style.

Consider:

Pretty, she entered the room.
Tall, they stood at attention.
Overweight, he sat at his desk.

Multiple adjectives with longer sentences seem to work better:

Pretty, witty, and intelligent, she soon came to the attention of wealthy men.
Tall, blond, and beautiful, they paraded down the aisle as if it were a catwalk.
Overweight and exhausted, he shrugged off his coat and sat down heavily.

CJ

flora123 just wonder if a supplement (a loosely attached element) could be placed before the noun/pronoun it refers to:“Sad and confused, she stepped out of the room.”We could normally say: “She stepped out of the room, sad and confused” as adjectives here seem in a fine linear position.

Indeed, they can, as your examples show.

In fact, front position is sometimes preferred. Compare these examples:

[1] Exhausted, Kim gave up the struggle.

[2] Kim gave up the struggle, exhausted.

[3] Kim, exhausted, gave up the struggle.

All three are possible but [1], where prominence is given to the supplement, is likely to be preferred over [2] and [3] where the supplement is in mid or end position.

There's no grammatical rule that can be applied; every construction has to be considered on its own merits.


Incidentally, predicative adjuncts are not restricted to adjective phrases: you can also have PPs ( preposition phrases) or NPs (noun phrases):

In a bad temper, as usual, John walked on ahead of the main party. [PP]

A proud teetotaller, John stuck to water while the others drank champagne. [NP]

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Many thanks,

Your examples are so much better. I get your points now.

Thank you for the three options to consider, each has each its own merit. I’d like to use PP and NP too.