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The houses visible above the walls were just burnt-out shells.

What is the syntax of this sentence?

Is there something omitted between "houses" and "visible"?

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  • The syntax is very simple : the main parts are subject and predicate. Jun 19, 2021 at 6:48
  • No nothing is omitted there as it is. The head noun is post modified by an Adjective Phrase in the Noun Phrase structure. You however can insert some words in between "house" and "visible" as suggested by the answer, but then the NP structure will be different. In that case the head noun is post modified by a Relative Clause. Jun 19, 2021 at 7:33
  • @Man_From_India , Insert some words like "being" , maybe?
    – Dumby_cat
    Jun 19, 2021 at 7:40
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    Nothing is missing. "Visible above the walls" is an adjective phrase post-modifying "houses".
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2021 at 8:04
  • Possible but again NP structure will change. The head noun will be post modified by a Gerund-Participle clause - "being visible above the wall". Jun 19, 2021 at 8:04

2 Answers 2

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The houses visible above the walls were just burnt-out shells.

This is a clause consists of two basic elements - Subject and Predicate
Subject - The houses visible above the walls.
Predicate - were just burnt-out shells

When we ralk about subject and Predicate, we ralk about Functions. But they are realised by different categories. Here the subject is realised by a Noun Phrase and the predicate by a Verb Phrase.

The Noun Phrase here - the houses visible above the walls - has the structure like this - Determinative (category) + Noun (category) + Adjective Phrase (category)
Inside this Noun Phrase structure these elements perform some functions. The determinative (the) performs the function of a determiner, the second element (houses) of head and the third element (visible above the walls) of a modifier. Inside the Adjective Phrase - visible above the walls - the head (visible) is obviously an Adjective, and the only other element (above the walls) is an Adjunct (function) that is realised by a Preposition Phrase (category). Inside the Preposition Phrase - above the walls - the head (above) is a Preposition (category) and the complement (function) of the preposition is a Noun Phrase. In this Noun Phrase - the walls - there is only two elements - Determinative (the) functions as Determiner and the Noun (walls) functions as head.

In the Verb Phrase - were just burnt-out shells - the head (were) is a Copular Verb that functions as a Predicator, the Predicative complement of the verb is a Noun Phrase - just burnt-out shells. This Predicative Complement is oriented towards the subject and hence called Subject Oriented Predicative Complement.

Inside the Noun Phrase - just burnt-out shells - just is an intensifier, burnt-out is a prehead modifier realised by an Participle Adjective and the head is shells, a Noun.

There is nothing missing between houses and visible.

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  • Content clauses are subordinate, but "The houses visible above the walls were just burnt-out shells" is a main clause.
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2021 at 12:26
  • @BillJ right, I edited the post. Jun 19, 2021 at 12:52
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Yes, the verb phrase "that were" or "that are" has been eliminated. The complete sentence would read.

"The houses that are visible above the walls were just burnt-out shells."

or

"The houses that were visible above the walls were just burnt-out shells."

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  • @Justin Ohms , Well, I get it now. "The houses visible above the walls" is called "Absolute Construction", which is called "独立主格结构" in Chinese. It makes "The houses visible above the walls" a gerund in the sentence. And the verb "being" has been eliminated between "houses" and "visible". And, thank you guys for answering.
    – Dumby_cat
    Jun 19, 2021 at 7:33
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    @Dumby-cat it is not an absolute construction, neither it is a gerund. Jun 19, 2021 at 7:39
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    @JustinOhms Nothing is ommited. "Visible above the walls" is simply an adjective phrase post-modifying "houses". It's certainly not an absolute construction -- what gave you that idea?
    – BillJ
    Jun 19, 2021 at 8:07
  • Justin, what you call a Verb Phrase is not actually a Verb Phrase. Jun 19, 2021 at 9:59

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