In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, I came across this confusing sentence:

Facing the square is the Palazzo Marchesale, the palace of the Saggese family, once the great landowner of those parts.

I couldn't understand the sentence in terms of grammar because it seems to be reduced. But in reduced sentences, there are generally two sentences. Only one of them is reduced, because both sentences have the same subject. In my quoted sentence there is just one sentence? Could you explain this to me please?

  • 3
    The "composite" clause the palace of the Saggese family, once the great landowner of those parts is an appositive construction - a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. The default word order for your example would be to start with the subject (the Palazzo Marchesale), and put the verb element (is facing the square) at the end of the sentence. It''s called fronting to put it at the front. Oct 14 '20 at 12:40
  • @FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Thank you so much for your answer. Actually, I didn't know "fronting". With your explanation, I understand why the structure is in reverse of normal usage. I will do some research on "fronting" Thank you so much for your answer.
    – grammarian
    Oct 14 '20 at 13:15
  • 1
    There is also an apposition in your sentence: Palazzo Marchesale, the palace of the Saggese family,
    – Lambie
    Oct 14 '20 at 14:46
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica: You should leave that as an answer, not a comment. Comments are for suggesting improvements to the question or requesting clarification.
    – V2Blast
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:46
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    Neither of the two answers here (one accepted by OP) mention either "fronting" or "apposition", so it's not obvious to me why what I wrote should have been posted as an "Answer". OP seems to be asking about the syntactic subject, which I never addressed because I didn't understand that aspect of the question. Oct 16 '20 at 11:57

Facing the square is the Palazzo Marchesale

This is equivalent to:

The Palazzo Marchesale is facing the square

The reason the author inverted it is so they could more easily attach the relative clause that follows.

  • 1
    +1 But the real reason they've inverted it is because the square has already been mentioned and the Palazzo Marchesale is new to the conversation. In the OP's version it takes pride of place at the end of the sentence :) Oct 15 '20 at 16:50
  • The answer should probably address the structure of the rest of the sentence and help explain its meaning.
    – V2Blast
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:46

The Palazzo faces the square (its front forms all or part of one of the four sides). The second phrase explains what the palace is, the third explains who the family are.


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