Is this sentence right

Its original justifications outmoded, its operations inscrutable, and its effects at odds with the goals of a democracy, the Electoral College is an institution that some would like to abandon.

from Kaplan Toefl prep.? Why the book did not say

Its original justifications are outmoded, its operations are inscrutable..."

I don't know the reason, is it a typing error? Or is it still grammatically correct?


These are examples of non-finite clauses They are quite common in participial phrases, but are unusual with a normal adjective.

Here is an example with an active participle (-ing):

The horses sweating, they climbed the hill.

and with a passive (past) participle (-ed).

The horses stabled, he went inside to get something to eat.

You can also do it with a prepositional phrase:

The kids in bed, they settled down in front of the television

Doing it with a non-participial adjective is unusual, though:

The horses ready, they started to climb the hill

outmoded is a past participle, so this is quite conventional: maybe this sets the tone for the structure of the second clause where inscrutable is a non-participle adjective. at odds with the goals of a democracy is a prepositional phrases.


It is perfectly correct in terms of grammar although it is an awkward sentence to read. It strikes me as rather old-fashioned oratory. Perhaps it came from a speech. Each of the clauses beginning with 'its' is adjectival and qualifies 'the Electoral College'. A simpler example is 'Its brakes squealing, the car stopped just in time.'

  • outmoded qualifies "the Electoral College's original justifications", et cetera. – JavaLatte Feb 12 '18 at 11:37

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