a. The tall man met Jane, angry at herself.

b. The tall woman went to the preacher, angry at himself.

c. The tall man met her, angry at herself.

d. The tall woman went to him, angry at himself.

Are the above sentences grammatically correct and meaningful?

The question is whether the adjectival phrase at the end of the sentence can legitimately modify the object of the sentence.

Many thanks.

1 Answer 1


As a native speaker for 40+ years, I can certainly say all of those sentences are grammatically sound, but I'd also say that all four of them sound a bit weird.

This construct can be parsed as "X predicate, Adverbial". Usually, after the comma, we would expect to hear more about the subject X (for example, "the tall man" in your 'a'). That's not necessary, but it's usual. Think about mathematics where you distinguish 1+(3*4) from (1+3)*4. There is a "default" convention for interpretation, and you can override it, but it's abnormal. You can do it, but it might look like a trick, or a weirdness. If you do, then just imagine the brackets ("he saw [the woman], crying" vs. "he saw [the woman, crying]"). It works but it's not what readers expect.

  • 3
    We expect the descriptive phrase to refer to the subject of the sentence, but it could be clarified by adding who was - "He met Jane, who was angry at herself". Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 8:43

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