I read this sentence in a book:

He has been unconscious since late on the previous Saturday evening.

I am wondering about this construction. I thought it should be "since late the previous Saturday evening." Is the sentence from the book grammatical? Similar examples or reference to other pages would be very helpful.

Here's the original text:

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  • Yes, "late on the previous evening" is not idiomatic. Is this from a textbook or some other source? – Andrew Feb 22 '18 at 2:58
  • @Andrew It's from Newton: A Very Short Introduction. I can totally see it used as a college science/philosophy textbook. – Eddie Kal Feb 22 '18 at 3:05
  • Is this from Isaac Newton's own writings then? If so it may simply be archaic language, since Newton lived and wrote several hundred years ago. – Andrew Feb 22 '18 at 3:07
  • @Andrew Nope. The author Rob Iliffe wrote it. I will snap a shot and put it up in the question. – Eddie Kal Feb 22 '18 at 3:10
  • 1
    It's a mystery to me then, Perhaps he didn't have a very good editor? But the context must be unusual, since it's written in the present perfect. – Andrew Feb 22 '18 at 3:16

To me this usage of "on" feels incorrect. It would have been fine if the author had left out the preposition entirely,

Unconscious since late the previous Saturday evening, Sir Isaac Newton.

In any case the context makes more sense now. This is an example of what I think is called a participle phrase, or perhaps just an adjectival phrase. Since the phrase doesn't contain a verb, the tense is implied by context,

Isaac Newton, (the person who has been) unconscious since late the previous evening.

It's possible the author is mixing this with a related expression, "on the evening of ..." This is used to give a time frame to isolated events, but not to events that continue from a particular moment in time.

Isaac Newton died late on the evening of March 20th ...

  • It's a little unusual to connect both "since late" and "on" to an evening, but one can certainly say "since late on [specific entire day]". For example, in Tom Clancy's "Into the Storm: A Study in Command" (2007): "Since both these areas were outside VII Corps sector, and had been since late on 25 February, there was nothing we could do to stop the units leaving by that route." – Jacob C. Sep 16 '19 at 22:06

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