+0
He walked down the stairs, his head pounding from last night.

Whenever I see a group of words like the words in italics above, which doesn't have a subject or verb (therefore not a clause), I know that it is a phrase. Often the words are set off from the sentence by a comma. I then have to decide what part of speech it is:noun, adverb, preposition or adjective.

In this case, I assume the sentence would not make sense without the comma, correct? The parenthetical information is an adjective phrase, but if the phrase included a finite verb, then it would be a clause and the comma would be ungrammatical (a comma splice): He walked down the stairs. His head was pounding from last night.

So, is this all right to do, omitting the finite verb so that it's not a clause and therefore a comma is allowed? I often see this omittion of a subject or verb so a comma can be used instead of a full stop which reduces flow.

I have always wondered if this is allowed in formal writing, so I would love to know the answer...

Thanks a load!
+0
Hi Eddie,

It's fine to write in that way.

I'm not sure I'd say that the finite verb was 'omitted'. That implies that it was there, or should have been there, in the way the sentence was first formed in the writer's mind. Do you think that we always think in terms of clauses with finite verbs?

Best wishes, Clive
Comments  
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Hi, Clive,

Yeah, I'd have to agree that 'omittion' is not the best word to use. I just look at the phrase in that way; essentialy, the only difference is the lack of a finite verb; I'm pretty sure that the phrase above is an absolute phrase.

I just always see this style in informal conversations, through txt messaging for example, as a way to reduce the number of words written. I thought that perhaps it has seeped its way into formal writing.

I was very hungry. I don't know why, but I was. A comma cannot be used between 'hungry' and 'I'

I was very hungry, don't know why, but I was. A comma can be used here (to help with fluency I assume).

Thanks.
Hi,
I just always see this style in informal conversations, through txt messaging for example, as a way to reduce the number of words written. I thought that perhaps it has seeped its way into formal writing.

On the contrary, I would say it is a standard feature of formal writing.

_________________________

I was very hungry. I don't know why, but I was. A comma cannot be used between 'hungry' and 'I'

I was very hungry, don't know why, but I was. A comma can be used here (to help with fluency I assume).

In #1, you are right, in terms of grammar and formal writing. In informal writing, such a comma is not uncommon.

In #2, you are only right in terms of the very relaxed grammar of informal writing. You could use dashes or brackets instead, if you wanted to.

Clive
In #2, you are only right in terms of the very relaxed grammar of informal writing. You could use dashes or brackets instead, if you wanted to.

How come I am only right in informal writing??
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Hi,

#2 I was very hungry, don't know why, but I was.


In #2, you are only right in terms of the very relaxed grammar of informal writing. You could use dashes or brackets instead, if you wanted to.

How come I am only right in informal writing??

Putting in the middle of a sentence a parenthetical 'don't know why' or even 'I don't know why' by using a pair of commas is informal. It really just shows the reader that you haven't taken the time to structure your statement more carefully.

In formal writing, I'd usually avoid such parenthetical comments altogether, but if I had to add one I'd use brackets or dashes,as I noted, to help the reader understand quickly what I am saying.

Best wishes, Clive