The sun overhead and the sky clear, Carl stepped into his future.

What is the difference between this absolute phrase and introductory phrases like in these other two examples?

  1. Trying to be kind, I held the door open for the customer.

  2. Beautiful and confident, the girl applied to the beauty pageant.

  • 1
    "The sun overhead and the sky clear" seems to have metaphorical meaning. But, for example, "trying to be kind" is literal in the given sentence.
    – user60033
    Feb 18, 2019 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


The absolute phrases are noun phrases with their own modifiers. There are no nouns in the other two introductory phrases.

“Trying to be kind” is a participial phrase. “Beautiful and confident” is a coordination of adjectives. Either of these structures can play an adjectival role. Either of these examples can be understood as a modifier of the subject of its clause. An absolute phrase cannot play that role.

I am the one trying to be kind. The girl is someone both beautiful and confident. Carl isn’t modified by an overhead sun or a clear sky.

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