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Absolute phrases seem to be crucial for constructing sentences. I do understand it. But sometimes I get confused, when is see one in a sentence.
"We abandoned the car in a narrow street by the mosque and Sam entered the shadowy doorway of some great tenement house, half of which consisted of shuttered and bared offices with blurred nameplates."
In the above example. The term "Half of which consisted of shuttered and bared offices with blurred nameplates". Is it acting as an absolute phrase(which I think is modifying the one coming before it), having a noun and its participle? Or is it an independent clause incorrectly attached to the another one?
I read somewhere that absolute phrases uses non-action-verb participle, how to tell if one is an action verb or not? "Consisted" is an action or non action verb?

  • No, it's a supplementary (non-defining) relative clause. An absolute is not a phrase but a non-finite clause that contains a subject and is thus not syntactically linked to the main clause. For example, "[His voice trembling with fear], he cried out for help." – BillJ Jul 10 '18 at 16:43
  • Can someone give more examples of absolute phrases/clauses? example 1: His hands pushed the girl, she cried for help.(is this correct?) example 2: Her voice trembled with fear, she cried for help. Which one of these is an absolute clause, and which is not? I struggle with constructing absolute clauses, and use them in sentences. Because I am always confused about, what verb I should use with the noun in the absolute clause. Can someone clarify? – M Karthik Raja Jul 11 '18 at 11:14
  • No, an absolute construction has a non-finite clause, not a finite one like those in your examples. This means that the verb must be either a gerund-participle (an ing form), or a past participle. Other examples of absolute clauses: "[His hands gripping the door], he let out a volley of curses"; "[This done], she walked off without another word". Note that in each of those example, the clause has a subject ("his hands" / "this") and a non-finite verb ("gripping" / "done"). – BillJ Jul 11 '18 at 11:33
  • thanks. Can you give few more example using the --past participle as a non finite verb. Because past participle and past tense appear to be same. It creates confusion. – M Karthik Raja Jul 11 '18 at 11:39
  • Try going to Tenses this site. Enter the finite part of any verb (e.g. eat, run, consider, do, etc.,) and it will conjugate the verb into all its different tenses for you. The gerund and past participle of the verb are located near the top of the page. Try lots of verbs, you will soon see that past participle and past tense are not the same. – James Jul 11 '18 at 18:12
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The term "half of which consisted of shuttered and bared offices with blurred nameplates" is not an absolute phrase. As BillJ says, this is a non-defining relative clause.

One way by which you can often identify an absolute phrase or clause is that they can be moved to other parts of the sentence. If you do this with this clause you will end up with:

Half of which consisted of shuttered and bared offices with blurred nameplates, we abandoned the car in a narrow street by the mosque and Sam entered the shadowy doorway of some great tenement house.

which is obviously incorrect.

Compare this to the following, where the absolute phrase is in bold:

Crying with laughter, we left the theatre.

By simply moving the absolute phrase, this can be changed to the following without affecting the meaning of the sentence:

We left the theatre, crying with laughter.

For the record consist is a non-action verb. 'Consist' tells you what something is made up of, not what it is doing.

  • Are the following absolute phrases: 1.She loved him, he was amazing.(Is 'she loved him' an absolute phrase) 2.She decided, She wanted to play soccer. 3. It ached, She was angry. all these examples appear to be using the non-finite verbs, but i am confused, if these sentences have absolute phrases in it. – M Karthik Raja Jul 12 '18 at 10:13
  • Sorry, those are not absolute phrases. in 1. the phrase is finite, 2. 'She' is the subject of the sentence, and 3. Insufficient logical connection. Possible examples could be, 'Blinded by love, she thought he was amazing.' 'Decision made, she joined a soccer team.' 'Heart aching, she was angry at her loss.' With absolute phrases, the phrase must have a logical connection to the rest of the sentence, but it cannot have a grammatical connection. The logical connection often tells you the circumstances, the time, the reason or the cause of the action in the rest of the sentence. – James Jul 17 '18 at 15:35

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