“And I still have other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain." ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

What is the grammatical structure and function of this phrase? Do you consider it a verb phrase? It seems to provide additional information for what smothered memories (which I'm guessing is a noun phrase) do? I'm not sure I understand the grammatical function of now.


The phrase is a (non-restrictive) postmodifier for memories. It is non-restrictive because of the usage of a comma. You can find more information about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses here.

This is the entire noun phrase, with your phrase in bold as a postmodifier for memories:

other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain

However, on its own, your phrase is a non-finite subclause. The word now is an adverbial complement (of time), the predicate is unfolding themselves and into limbless monsters of pain is a prepositional object. Memories acts as the subject in the subclause.

You could convert the non-finite clause to a finite one, maybe this helps you understand:

...memories, that now unfold themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

  • Non-restrictive and restrictive may seem new to me. I may read on that. Postmodifiers may seem new to me and I may read on that. I guess I mostly got dependent and independent clauses, and dependent clauses like infinitive, noun clause, maybe participle. I guess now an adverbial complement argument to unfolding. Unfolding seems like a participle and I may think it a participle dependent clause? – saySay Jun 13 '15 at 15:47
  • now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain seems to maybe explain what other smothered memories does, and I guess I thought that seeming like a doing, a verb, so I guess it seemed like a verb clause? May there seem something like that? I may not get that. – saySay Jun 13 '15 at 15:47
  • A clause always contains a verb, there is no such thing as a 'verb clause'. There are main clauses, subclauses, finite vs non-finite clauses, relative clauses,... If you want to read up on different types of clauses, take a look at this link: chompchomp.com/terms/clause.htm – Sander Jun 13 '15 at 19:04
  • However, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain might be seen as a verb phrase that modifies other smothered memories. – Sander Jun 13 '15 at 19:05

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