You just heard "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. This is a song about racial harmony using piano keys. The black keys on the piano are ebony, and the white ones are ivory (from a textbook)

I have questions about the bolded part.

I am curious about which grammatical role "using piano keys" takes.

  1. an adjectival phrase modifying "a song"
  2. an adverbial clause which can be changed into "as it uses piano keys"

If the answer 2 is right in Q1, what is the antecedent of "it" in "as it uses piano keys"? "This" in "This is a song"? I assume this because if an adverbial finite clause is reduced into an adverbial nonfinite clause, the adverbial nonfinite clause shares the same subject as the subject in the main clause. Is this right?

Many thanks in advance:)

  • 3
    It's not very well expressed. The song doesn't really use piano keys, it is based on the idea of them as an image of black and white working together. May 19, 2021 at 8:04
  • 2
    I think it's incomplete. It could say "using piano keys as a metaphor". May 19, 2021 at 8:10
  • @KateBunting Is this sentence even correct? The way that "using piano key" is used with the rest of the sentence? May 19, 2021 at 8:11
  • @JackO'Flaherty If It were written as "using piano keys as a metaphor" as you said, what would you think a grammatical role of it is?
    – Mcreaper
    May 19, 2021 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


This is a song about racial harmony using piano keys.

There are different types of adverb / adverbial phrases. I would say that "about racial harmony" is an adverb of purpose, because the purpose of the song is to convey a message about racial harmony; "using piano keys" is an adverb of manner, because that is how it is done.

If you omitted the point about the meaning of the song, and simply said "this is a song using piano keys", that would just mean it is a song played on piano, and that really isn't so remarkable - lots of songs are played on piano. What is remarkable about this song is that it uses the black and white keys on a piano as a metaphor for racial harmony. So, this adverbial phrase is not really acting on "the song" - it is explaining how the purpose of the song is achieved. The order of these two phrases is essential to convey that.

Subject (the song) > purpose of subject (message about racial harmony) > how that purpose is achieved (via a metaphor)

  • "What is remarkable about this song" - some might say that 'crass' is a more suitable word than 'remarkable', when discussing that song. May 19, 2021 at 10:24

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