Sindhu, in fact, became a shuttlecock, so to speak, between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh chief ministers K.C. Rao and N. Chandrababu Naidu, respectively. Both tried to appropriate her success by bestowing lavish felicitations and money. Naidu even went to the extent of playing a few points of badminton with Sindhu on the dais at a celebration function in Vijayawada, his footwork ginger and smile smug.


I couldn't understand the meaning of the phrase in the bold text. I know the meaning of the words but the way the sentence was framed confused me. I understand what ginger means here, but the missing linking verbs make it difficult to understand the phrase.

Could you explain it?

  • 2
    It might help to interpret this phrase if you realize that it's a reduced version of "his footwork was ginger and his smile was smug."
    – stangdon
    Oct 16, 2016 at 21:04
  • 2
    hmmm...actually, I think the reduction is of being, but more interestingly this almost reads as an instance of zero copula. Oct 17, 2016 at 1:55
  • 2
    Similar: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/67405/… (but I read this one as being is omitted; anyway, that part is not a finite clause.) Oct 17, 2016 at 11:33
  • 2
    @ColleenV It's actually tricky to look up ginger here, as most dictionaries won't list the relevant meaning. Instead, the OP needs to understand that ginger is a back-formation from gingerly, and look up gingerly instead. And I think this example is grammatically difficult because of the ellipsis of being, and I think that's hard for the OP to look up, too. I would like to see more details in questions in general, but in this case it might be difficult for the OP to find anything useful to add.
    – user230
    Oct 17, 2016 at 14:54
  • 2
    @GaryBotnovcan I agree. It seems clear enough to me. But that wasn't in the original question. That was one of the OP's comments, which I edited into the question after they posted it :-)
    – user230
    Oct 17, 2016 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


You're looking at an absolute phrase. 

Most descriptions of the absolute phrase construction examine nouns modified by participles.  These are nouns modified by postpositive adjectives. 

A sentiment similar to that expressed in your model sentence could be expressed with a prepositional phrase: 

Naidu, with ginger footwork and a smug smile, even went to the extent of playing a few points of badminton with Sindhu on the dais at a celebration function in Vijayawada.

The prepositional phrase above directly modifies "Naidu".  The absolute phrase in the original modifies the entire preceding clause.  The prepositional phrase suggests that he had the ginger footwork and smug smile before he began the game.  The absolute construction only suggests that he had them during the game. 


You may find this blog entry to be a useful guide to how the absolute phrase functions. 

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