I don't understand the grammar of this: "You will be dazed by the shock of delusions dispelled." (by George Johnson) I think it means, "He is dazed by the shock that naturally comes from your delusions being dispelled because of what stands right before him: reality." But I'm not sure about the grammar of "shock of delusions dispelled".

How does one derive what this means from English grammar?

  • 1
    Context please. Jun 22, 2014 at 2:47
  • It's an uncommon sentence, but I think it's not too weird. One simple way to understand a sentence's structure (as opposed to parsing a sentence as a tree) is to ask yourself rhetoric questions. For example, "What is the sentence about?" "It's about 'You will be dazed.'" "'You will be dazed,' by what?" "By a shock." "What shock?" "It's the shock of delusions dispelled." At this point, you should be able to think of "delusions dispelled" as "something" (I hope of is not your problem), but what exactly is "delusions dispelled"? It's (approx.) the state after delusions were dispelled. Jun 22, 2014 at 4:31
  • If you have a grammar book, check out "past participles" in your book. Jun 22, 2014 at 4:32
  • I agree that more context would be helpful. (A name like "George Johnson" is not context.) Where did this come from? A work of fiction, a news article, or a poem?
    – J.R.
    Jun 22, 2014 at 9:40
  • 1
    I read it as something of a deliberate "double-entendre". With shock = amazement, "Having [some] delusions dispelled will be amazing, and will leave you dazed". But there's also shock = a crowd (of persons); a heap, bunch, bundle (of things) (from OED), giving the alternative reading "Having such a large number of delusions dispelled will leave you dazed". Jun 22, 2014 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


Look at it this way: "You will be dazed by the shock of delusions that have been dispelled."

So, clearly you understand the sentence. It looks like you didn't understand that "that have been" can be inferred by the context. This sort of abbreviation is pretty common. For example:

The goals scored in the current World Cup are among the finest in its history.
The goals that have been scored in the current World Cup are among the finest in its history.

This is the same idea, and perhaps a more obvious example.


It's an adjective: In "delusions dispelled" the participle is functioning as an adjective. This can cause confusion with language learners simply because there is a lot more emphasis and material on the role of the past participle as part of English verb conjugations.

How to decide between verb and adjective form? If a word answers "what action happened?" then it's acting as part of a verb (and this will typically be obvious as a verb conjugation). If a word answers the question "which?" or "what kind?" then it's acting as an adjective.

But it still retains a verb-like quality! The adjectival participle describes "which" or "what kind?" by virtue of the state or action it has taken or been subjected-to.

Participles as Verbs: Let's first review some familiar verb conjugations. You can easily understand these as part of the action of the sentence. "He had dispelled his delusion" and "He dispelled his delusion" both use 'dispelled' to simply describe the action (the verb of the sentence), forming the past perfect and past tense, respectively.

Participles as Adjective: In the sentence, "He was dismayed by his dispelled delusion", the word 'dispelled' describes which delusion and is therefore acting as an adjective. But even as an adjective, it describes it in a verb-like manner.

Rhetorical Usage/Elliiptical Construction: Placed after the noun (called postpostive position), participles often form an elliptical construction (omission of one or more words that are understood in context). Rhetorically, this allows brevity, euphony (pleasing to the ear), and powerful punchy phrases. This also allows an elliptical construction (dropping additional information) which creates a more passive and distant tone that can avoid naming responsibility. Therefore, this form is often used in government and business documents to sound more authoritative and less connected to actual people or groups. Statements made in the passive voice are weaker, but the missing words can make it more easily accepted (because there's less information to argue against) or hide the people responsible for making decisions.

Examples of Elliptical Constructions.

  • Many of the species involved are listed internationally as endangered. (The species involved in the study...)
  • The product used was made by boiling a quantity of hops with treacle** (The product used by the company's process...)
  • Because of this the skill required is often very challenging. (The skill required by the employee to do the job right...)
  • The amount of detail given will have to be appropriate to the type of system installed. (The detail given by the supplier's instruction manual...)
  • Further efforts made are likely to fail for a number of reasons. (Further efforts made by any military action...)
  • The issues raised are more diverse and just as difficult. (The issues raised by Senator XYZ...)
  • All of the ideas suggested were not feasible. (The ideas suggested by the committee...)


1. A Guide to Parts of Speech - Adjectives Google Search "postpositive+adjectives"+participles.
2. Exceptions are idiomatic deverbal adjectives).
3. Postpositive Past Participles Used on Their Own (Furuta, Yae, International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, Vol 2, No. 6, 2012).
4. Bibliography for the quotes referenced by Faruta: (1.) R. Quirk, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, New York: Longman, 1985. (2.) M. Swan, Practical English Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2005. (3) K. Araki and M. Yasui, Sanseido’s New Dictionary of English Grammar, Tokyo: Sanseido, 1993. 5. Semantics of adjectival participles: participles eventives resultatives statives.


dispel by definition

to scatter and drive away; cause to vanish; disperse

So I suppose delusions dispelled refers to delusions that were made to go away. Probably that could mean a number of things. I suppose reality could be one of them.

You must log in to answer this question.