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I T STARTED at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden. Martin, who was none too sober himself, at first thought the body was that of one of the many celebrants who had chosen the Piazza as a convenient outdoor toilet and dormitory. Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the “London once-over”—a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport—like BASE jumping or crocodile wrestling. Martin, noting the good quality coat and shoes, had just pegged the body as a drunk when he noticed that it was in fact missing its head.

As Martin noted, to the detectives conducting his interview, it was a good thing he’d been inebriated, because otherwise he would have wasted time screaming and running about—especially once he realized he was standing in a pool of blood. Instead, with the slow methodical patience of the drunk and terrified, Martin Turner dialed 999 and asked for the police.

from Midnight Riot

Q:

I still don't understand why is there a comma if it meant to say what Martin pointed to the detective, shouldn't it be like "As Martin noted to the detectives"?

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  • I think it's a stylistic choice to include that first comma in the exact cited context (where the second comma/pause must be present). The effect of the comma is to alert the reader that to the detectives... is effectively "parenthetical". It's not particularly important where or to whom Martin addressed this particular observation, but because it often is important to be aware that something was said in the context of a police interview (perhaps "under caution"?), it's helpful to have that little comma to make it obvious that's not really relevant here. May 28, 2022 at 17:04
  • Thank you for helping me
    – wtdark
    May 29, 2022 at 11:13

1 Answer 1

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The prepositional phrase "to the detective conducting his interview" is parenthetical. It is an aside. It could be placed in round brackets, and it could be removed completely without really changing the meaning of the sentence.

The pair of commas is used to mark this parenthetical phrase. That is why the author included them. If the author wanted you to read this prepositional phrase as essential then they could be omitted. There is a nuanced change in meaning.

In speech, or when reading aloud, (or even when reading in your head) you would pause slightly and use an intonation pattern to express the same parenthetical phrase. The author is indicating how you should read this sentence.

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  • Thank you, but I still hold a question. If it is a parenthetical, does "to the detectives conducting his interview" have a meaning of "from the detectives' perspective"? As grammarly said "Don’t separate a transitive verb from its direct object with a comma", grammarly.com/blog/comma
    – wtdark
    May 28, 2022 at 16:04
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    It just means he was speaking to detectives. It is not about perspective. It is not a direct object so the Grammarly rule is irrelevant. The verb "noted" is intransitive and doesn't have a direct object.
    – James K
    May 28, 2022 at 16:27

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