Wisely, he stopped short of counting his chickens, but his confidence was clear. (theage.com.au)

There is an idiom, stop short of doing something. I suppose short of doing something could be interpreted as a predicative adjunct/complement: describing the subject semantically; modifying the verb, stop, syntactically. Is it what you have in your mind?

  • 3
    Counting one's chickens (before they hatch) is also an idiom.
    – user6951
    Jul 11 '14 at 0:38
  • 1
    ..and so is "conscience was clear" an idiom. Warning~~Mixed Metaphor~~ Stopping short + counting chickens + clear conscience . (This quote didn't come from the Age's Sports Pages by any chance, did it? LOL ;-)
    – doc
    Jul 11 '14 at 0:55
  • to stop short is a phrasal verb.
    – Jim
    Jul 11 '14 at 1:58

This is very tricky. What do we have in stop short of? Is it 1) as Jim suggests, a particle phrasal verb (stop short) plus an optional PP with of as its complement? 2) an ordinary stop with a PP headed by short of as a secondary subject-oriented complement? or 3) a particle-preposition phrasal verb like put up with? None of these standard tests yields entirely felicitous results:

1a. ? It was of counting his chickens that he stopped short.
2a. ? It was short of counting his chickens that he stopped.
3a. ? It was counting his chickens that he stopped short of.

1b. ? Of counting his chickens was where he stopped short.
2b. ? Short of counting his chickens was where he stopped.
3b. ? Counting his chickens was what he stopped short of.

But the idiom stop short does not ordinarily mean stop before reaching a point, but stop abruptly.

On the other hand, we do have the idiom fall short, meaning fail to reach a given goal.

And That is a point short of which I will stop is not nearly so absurd as Churchill's That is an impertinence up with which I will not put.

So on balance I’m inclined to understand short of here as a compound pronoun (with short in fall short as its intransitive variant). If I’m right, then you’re justified in understanding short of X as a locative prepositional phrase which is dependent on stop and signifies the final location of the subject.

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