0

Primarily, the banker-customer relationship is that of debtor and creditor--who is which depending on whether the customer's account is in credit or is overdrawn.

I am aware that a complete sentence can be used after em dash, but here is a absolute structure used. I am wondering are there any differences between the two?

2 Answers 2

1

The sentence as quoted looks inconsistent because the first pair of nouns is in the singular (banker/customer) while the second one is in the plural (debtors/creditors). Surfing the Internet, I've found that the original text presents both pairs of nouns in the singular form:

When anyone opens a current account at a bank, he is lending the bank money, repayment of which he may demand at any time, either in cash or by drawing a cheque in favour of another person. Primarily, the banker-customer relationship is that of debtor and creditor — who is which depending on whether the customer’s account is in credit or is overdrawn. But, in addition to that basically simple concept, the bank and its customer owe a large number of obligations to one another. Many of these obligations can give rise to problems and complications but a bank customer, unlike, say, a buyer of goods, cannot complain that the law is loaded against him." (GORDON BARRIE and AUBREY L. DLAMOND The Consumer Society and the Law)

What appears after the em dash does not sound like good English. As OP says, there should be a tensed verb:

  • Primarily, the banker-customer relationship is that of debtor and creditor — who is which will depend on whether the customer’s account is in credit or is overdrawn.

For the V-ing to work with an absolute construction, there should be a comma and the subject should be different, for example:

  • Primarily, the banker-customer relationship is that of debtor and creditor, the person being one or the other depending on whether the customer’s account is in credit or is overdrawn.

In the revision above, the subject of the absolute clause can be "the person" and the non-finite "being", with "depending" being more like a preposition. In this respect, we can read on page 127 of The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style:

Some participles, such as concerning, considering, failing, and granting, function as prepositions and can be used to introduce a sentence without causing a dangling modifier. A few participial phrases, such as speaking of and judging by, also work this way:

Concerning the proposal, there was little debate among the board members.

Considering his reputation for honesty, his arrest came as a shock.

Speaking of exceptional performances, did you see her latest movie?

Judging by the applause, the play was a success.

Another possible parsing consists of considering "the person being one or the other" as the subject, in which case "depending" is the non-finite verb of the absolute clause.

2
  • I'm wondering why the absolute structure can't be as it is. Jan 5, 2021 at 11:43
  • 1
    I simply don't think a clause makes a good subject for an absolute construction.
    – Gustavson
    Jan 5, 2021 at 11:50
0

The example sentence reads fine to me.

The dash is effectively acting like a comma, it's just more direct and forceful - immediately providing clarification or additional information, or driving home an important point. (<- that's the same structure).

If it were split into two sentences, then you'd need a verb change, like Who is which depends on whether... As a single sentence, I think the part after the dash is functioning as a participle clause, where who is which is its subject - but I'm not strong on the terminology! But it sounds natural to me, as a native speaker.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .