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Brand rode among them, nervous with excitement.

What does this phrase nervous with excitement describe, Brand or them?

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    In a poetic, elliptical style it could mean either. In general use, only Brand. Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 14:09

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Technically it's ambiguous. In practice, it's almost always Brand being modified here. This sort of adjective clause almost always sounds odd modifying a pronoun. No matter what pronoun I choose to replace them in this sentence, the parser in my brain reaches the same conclusion: You must have really meant Brand was the nervous one, even though the clause comes after the pronoun, because otherwise you wouldn't have structured it so strangely.

Thus:

  • Always structure your adjectives and adjectival clauses so as to make it clear what's modified.

Nervous with excitement, Brand rode among them.

  • Avoid using adjective clauses to modify pronouns.

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