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Today I encountered the sentence:

"The drinkers at the other tables paused, glasses half-way to their lips, and stared with disbelief"

What is the function of "glasses half-way to their lips" in the sentence above? Is it a noun clause or how is it even called in terms of grammar?

For me, it's similar to something like adverbial or prepositional phrase that modifies a verb like "The drinkers at the other tables paused, in one moment, and stared with disbelief". But it's clearly not the case. So, what do you think it is?

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  • "The drinkers at the other tables paused, [had] glasses half-way to their lips, and stared with disbelief." a compound sentence in my reading.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29 at 18:33
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    @Kinschichi It's a clause whose function is that of supplement, here a kind of interpolation, a non-integrated element. More specifically, it's the verbless analogue of the non-finite clause "(their) glasses held half-way to their lips". Supplements are not modifiers; rather, they have an 'anchor' that they relate to, in this case the noun phrase "The drinkers at the other tables".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 30 at 13:21

1 Answer 1

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"Glasses half-way to their lips" is a noun phrase.

In traditional grammar, it's called a nominative absolute, a type of absolute construction or absolute phrase.

In Cambridge Grammar terminology, it's called an interpolation, a type of supplementation construction or supplement.

Such constructions have many other names depending on the source.

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  • No, I disagree. How can you transform that sentence based on what those links define?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 29 at 23:15
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    @ishtar A supplement but a clause rather than an NP, more specifically the verbless analogue of the non-finite supplement "(their) glasses held half-way to their lips".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 30 at 6:13

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