The technology, often so prescient it borders on creepy, has made Chinese counterparts very profitable too.
China Tech: Those Who Control The Algorithms Control The Future

I've never seen a sentence that includes this kind of structure. How can I understand it in grammar? Could you give another example?

  • 2
    It looks like an example of whiz-deletion to me: think of it as "The technology, which is often so prescient..."
    – stangdon
    Jan 5, 2022 at 2:27
  • 1
    I'd analyse it as an adjective phrase functioning as a supplement, a non-integrated, non-modifying element.
    – BillJ
    Jan 5, 2022 at 7:34

2 Answers 2


I'd analyze the bolded text as a postpositive adjectival phrase (headed by the adjective "prescient"). It is not hard to come up with examples:

The Grinch, green with envy, really hates Christmas.

The white chess piece, surrounded by black pieces, can not move.

The lion, slowly approaching the gazelle, is very careful.

Other interpretations (such as reduced relative clause) are also possible.

  • Postpositive implies that it's a modifier. But it isn't; it's a supplement, a non-integrated, non-modifying element.
    – BillJ
    Jan 5, 2022 at 7:38
  • @BillJ Thank you for the comment. I consider it to be a modifier. Jan 5, 2022 at 19:46
  • I'm sorry, but that's the wrong analysis. The commas that surround it have been used deliberately to mark it as an adjunct -- more specifically a supplement, detached by intonation or punctuation from the rest of the clause. It's predicative in that it's related to a predicand, in this case "the technology", and thus is a 'predicative adjunct'. If the writer had intended it to modify "the technology", they would have written it without commas so that it was integrated into the subject noun phrase.
    – BillJ
    Jan 6, 2022 at 8:43
  • @BillJ My interpretation is corrected and supported. For example, the Oxford English Grammar (section 5.8, "restrictive and non-restrictive modification") gives examples of "non-restrictive postmodifiers" modifying nominal phrases that they follow and surrounded by commas. Jan 6, 2022 at 23:48
  • The whole point about 'non-restrictive' is that it is 'non-modifying'. It's the same with non-restrictive relative clauses: they too are supplements, not modifiers.
    – BillJ
    Jan 7, 2022 at 7:50

The technology, [often so prescient it borders on creepy,] has made Chinese counterparts very profitable too.

The commas mark the bracketed adjective phrase as a supplement, a loosely attached expression set off by punctuation (and intonation) presenting supplementary, non-integrated content.

Supplements are not modifiers; rather, they refer to an 'anchor' -- in this case the anchor is the noun phrase "the technology". By virtue of not being integrated into the syntactic structure, supplements are necessarily semantically non-restrictive.

Supplements with the form of an adjective phrase, a noun phrase or a preposition phrase most often function as predicative adjuncts:

Bob, [angry because Joe has married his ex-wife Sally], forces Joe's car off the road. (adjective phrase)

[A proud teetotaller], John stuck to water while the others drank champagne. (noun phrase)

[In a bad temper], as usual, John walked on ahead of the main party. (preposition phrase)

They are called predicative adjuncts because they are related to a predicand. For example, the adjective phrase "angry because Joe has married his ex-wife Sally" refers to "John". It can be compared to the predicative complement in Bob was [angry because Joe has married his ex-wife Sally].

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