She looked enviously at roommates, peacefully asleep with their stomachs full.

I find the sentence kind of strange. Is it 100% correct? I know there are sentences like:

I think he is a man suitable for the job.


She has many pencils, blue and red.

But as to the first sentence, I would rather use an attributive clause, which would make it like:

She looked enviously at roommates, who were peacefully asleep with their stomachs full.

What do you say?

  • 5
    1) 'Roommates' here requires a determiner; her would be the obvious choice (assuming that it is in fact the subject's roommates that she is looking at and not people who are roommates of each other but not of the subject). 2) I think you mean relative clause, not attributive. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 26 '14 at 1:15
  • "She carefully watched the tiger, peacefully asleep with its stomach full". Yup, that's me, every four hours, taking a nap, after a mealtime. :) – F.E. Nov 26 '14 at 4:21
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    Please write a unique, descriptive title that summarizes the core issue or shows the example of what you found strange. It helps keep the site useful to people browsing and searching questions in the future. – Tyler James Young Nov 26 '14 at 4:50
  • Incidentally, the sentence is understood the same with or without "who were". This elision is common, but carries the potential for ambiguity in cases where it is unclear to whom the latter clause refers. As StoneyB says, "roommates" is lacking a determiner in both cases. – Tyler James Young Nov 26 '14 at 4:57
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    @StoneyB I don't think roommates requires a determiner or modifier. If it absolutely required one, the author would of used one. – user6951 Nov 26 '14 at 16:47

The first error is, actually, that you're missing a designator of whose roommates they are:

"She looked enviously at roommates, peacefully asleep with their stomachs full." should be "She looked enviously at her roommates, peacefully asleep with their stomachs full."

To be very pedantic, yes, that should also be "roommates, who were peacefully asleep with their stomachs full," but I would rarely blink an eye at a construction that omitted "who were," leaving it as understood. (But then, I often edit things down to have a lower word-count, which means leaving out words that will be understood as "invisibly present" to most readers.)

If, however, the words after the comma were ambiguous, able to pertain to both subject and object, you'd need to define it. "She slept restlessly beside her roommate, sleeping with her stomach full" is a slightly awkward phrase in general, but especially because the part after the comma could refer to either the "she" of the sentence, or "her roommate" -- and would probably attach to the "she" in many people's minds. For that, you'd definitely need "She slept restlessly beside her roommate, who was sleeping with her stomach full."

  • This "argument" is more with @StoneyB but are you guys saying I cannot write I woke up and all I saw were trees? Or Trees were the only thing I could make out on the ugly grey horizon. – user6951 Jan 27 '15 at 3:19
  • Not sure where you're getting that from. The issue is when you stick an "at" in front of the focus of your attention, basically. "I looked at roommate" just isn't good American English, and pluralizing it doesn't help. Roommates do not grow wild like trees, and you need to know where they came from. Are they yours? Someone else's? Each other's? – A.Beth Jan 27 '15 at 5:43

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