"A fishing port was located south of the markets, on the sea."

I have read sentences like the one above, in which a more specific description is given using a phrase after a vague one has been stated. Please, tell me what this grammatical technique is called so I can read on it. And does the phrase "on the sea" make the sentence ungrammatical?

  • See this NGram showing that town on the sea is relatively uncommon compared to ...coast or shore. Nov 4, 2022 at 12:14
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    ...and if you look at some of the actual examples, you'll see that it's often ...on the sea-coast, ...the sea-shore, ...Sea of Galilee or similar anyway. But this isn't "grammar" - it's just a matter of what's idiomatically established. And in this context, sea is indeed "established" (in that it's far from "unknown"), but for most people it's not usually their first choice of phrasing. Nov 4, 2022 at 12:19
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    ...the far more common preposition is by the sea. Nov 4, 2022 at 12:20
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    An exception is the UK (a tiny, tiny, proportion of the coastlines of English speaking countries), where Town-on-Sea, is not uncommon.
    – PRL75
    Nov 4, 2022 at 12:30
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    In England, Bexhill-on-Sea and Shoreham-by-Sea are towns in West Sussex and East Sussex respectively. Nov 4, 2022 at 13:01

1 Answer 1


It isn't ungrammatical, but it may not be the best way to express what you want.

On the sea makes it sound as if it is floating, or on stilt supported platforms.

By the sea, or On the coast are better.

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    I disagree a bit - you can find numerous examples of "town/village/city on the sea" in Google Books. It's slightly poetic and old-fashioned, IMO, but context makes it perfectly clear that whatever it is is not literally on top of the water.
    – stangdon
    Nov 4, 2022 at 13:15
  • Yes, I agree, but I don't think that it's good practice for things other than places.
    – PRL75
    Nov 4, 2022 at 13:26

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