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In a conference bewteen NASA officials and Thiokol executives the night before the fateful launch, participants reinforced one another's commitment to go.

I know what the author is trying to say, but grammatically I'm kind of puzzled, by the part in red.

Is it:

(1) (In a conference bewteen NASA officials and Thiokol executives: adverbial phrase 1)
+
(the night before the fateful launch: adverbial phrase 2)

or

(2) ellipsis of 'in a conference bewteen NASA officials and Thiokol executives in the night before the fateful launch'

or someting else?
1 2
Comments  
Could a not-repeated prep be omitted that easily?
In a conference bewteen NASA officials and Thiokol executives [that was held] the night before the fateful launch

I'm not very good the the naming of things, so perhaps this is the ellipsis. Your #2 is fine also, except to replace the "in" with "on," to make it read more naturally.

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Grammar GeekYour #2 is fine also, except to replace the "in" with "on," to make it read more naturally.
Is 'on the night' really more natural than 'in the night'?Emotion: surprise
If you want to specify when something happened, yes.

"Where were you on the night of January 16?" asked the policeman.

"In the night" carries a sense of "in the darkness." An owl called out in the night.
Grammar Geek"In the night" carries a sense of "in the darkness." An owl called out in the night.
Really?

Then, when somebody says something like 'Restaurants in this country open only at about 8 pm for business in the night', does it remind you of 'business in the darkness'??
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Well, you're talking about something different. I said to specify when an event had happened. You would say it happened "on the night of," not "in the night of." The exception would be if you said "It happened sometime in the middle of the night" or "In the darkest part of the night" or some other descriptor.

Now, in the example you just gave above, I'd say 8 o'clock AT night, or 8 p.m. for business in the evening. Prepositions are funny things and I don't understand any logic behind them, but it's at night and in the evening.
Grammar GeekWell, you're talking about something different. I said to specify when an event had happened.
No. It's just, you said something I couldn't entirely agree with.
If you had just talked about the matter of specificity, I wouldn't have confused at all; I just didn't think that 'in the night' always carried a sense of 'in the darkness.'

Now, getting back to the original question, GG, tell me.

Is that kind of construction 'noun+[the night/the day/a year/three hours, etc] before/after noun', such as 'the conference the night before fateful launch', quite common in English?

Plus, do you see such construction as 'the conference the night before they launched it (i.e.'noun+[the night/the day/a year/three hours, etc] before/after S+V) as often?

I really did say it this way:
Grammar GeekIf you want to specify when something happened, yes.

But anyway, is it common? It's certainly natural to drop the "on." So, yes, if I wanted to construct a sentence that said something happened the night before something else, I would do it that way. We saw that play the night before the lead actress left for another role. Or We saw that play the night before they closed it. I cried for two hours the night before he left for California.

In your second example, just above, the "it" becomes ambiguous, unless you already know they were talking about the launch. In my example about the play and closing it, we saw THE PLAY and the producers closed THE PLAY. Let's say we were already talking about a play, and I said "We went out to the most marvelous dinner the night before they closed it" you would understand, but it's not the best writing.

Is that what you meant?

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