The Source

On June 22 last year, a dozen police officers raided his home and arrested him on a charge of plotting to flee to North Korea, a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. Mr. Kwon was released in September after a judge suspended his one-year prison term.

Is the bold line an “absolute phrase” (a phrase that modifies an independent clause as a whole)?

I think the phrase is trying to modify “plotting to flee the North Korea? Isn’t it?

2 Answers 2


I'd say this is an absolute construction. Normally, it has a non-finite clause as a verb, but in this case it is verbless. Compare: "..., a crime being punishable.."

As a supplement, it is not integrated to the syntactic structure of the main clause. Nor it is a modifier but it has "a charge of plotting to flee" as its semantic anchor.

Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (page 4) by Bas Aarts et al, defines absolute construction as:

absolute clause A *non-finite or *verbless *clause containing its own subject, attached to a sentence from which it is separated by a comma (or commas), and not introduced by a subordinator. Also called absolute construction.


As your source indicates, "absolute" has different meanings. "Ablative absolutes" had a very well defined meaning in Classical Latin, and traditional grammarians of English borrowed the term for somewhat similar constructions in English though there was nothing "ablative" about them. Your source also indicates that many modern linguists do not use the term "absolute."

I do not find your source's usage compelling. As far as I am concerned, the "absolute" phrase in your source's main example technically modifies "storks" rather than every aspect of the independent clause. To be sure, the phrase supplements the information in the independent clause, but "their bodies" directly relates to storks rather a singular orange sky.

Having rejected your source's usage as not helpful, I must agree with your analysis. "A crime punishable ..." is an appositive supplementing the noun phrase headed by the gerund "plotting."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .