3

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
  • 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
3

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.

You must log in to answer this question.

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