now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

I guess this may contain a verb, unfolding and a subject, themselves so maybe I may not discern it a phrase. So I guess I may mostly discern it a non-finite subclause (dependent clause[?])? I maybe thought a dependent clause contains a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun placed in a first word placement. unfolding may seem like a participle. This may somewhat seem like a participle phrase. And I think it contains a verb and subject so maybe not? now may seem an adverbial complement to unfolding and may get me somewhat.

Now unfolding into limbless monsters of pain, his thoughts came (hastily[?] (not sure if came gets discerned transitive).

This may seem like maybe a participle phrase, no subject themselves?

Unfolding into limbless monsters of pain, his thoughts vexed him.

I think this may mostly seem a participle phrase, (no adverbial complement now that may get me), no subject.

  • 1
    themselves is not the subject, but an object. The subject would be the word that this phrase is attached to. Something unfolds something (themselves, object) into something (into limbless..., prepositional object)
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 6:53
  • So themselves object, in “And I still have other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.", like that object smothered memories? So I guess may it seem a participle phrase containing a participle(?) unfolding that contains now an adverbial compliment?
    – saySay
    Jun 14, 2015 at 15:09
  • No, other smothered memories is the object in your main clause (And I still have other smothered memories...), but it is the subject in your non-finite subclause (smothered memories, now unfolding...). In that subclause, themselves is the object, now an adverbial complement, unfolding the predicate (verb) and limbless monsters of pain a prepositional object.
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:45
  • A clause consists of multiple phrases. I think you're confusing functions (subject, verb, object etc) with phrases (verb phrase, adjective phrase, noun phrase, ...).
    – Vlammuh
    Jun 14, 2015 at 17:47
  • So a clause may utilize an object of another clause and utilize it like something different? other smothered memories, object in main clause, utilizing it in that next clause like a subject? I guess I may not frequently read subclause. I think I read independent (main[?]) clause, dependent clause, relative clause, and noun clause. I may not get prepositional object. I think I get verbs may utilize arguments like subject or maybe if transitive subject and object.
    – saySay
    Jun 14, 2015 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


What I call a clause has a subject and a predicate.  This doesn't, so I don't call it a clause.

There is a verb: "unfolding".  This is a non-finite verb.  Without context, there is nothing to establish whether it is a participle or a gerund.  The -ing form could suit either role.

"Themselves" is a pronoun, specifically a reflexive pronoun.  It's the direct object of "unfolding".  "Into limbless monsters of pain" is a prepositional phrase.  It might act as an adverbial adjunct of "unfolding"  It might act as an object complement, making it a predicate adjectival phrase.  For this phrase, I don't know how to distinguish between those possibilities.  The "now" is just a simple adverb.

"Themselves" cannot serve as a subject -- at least, it can't in most dialects.  The subjective form is simply "they".  We use "themselves" as either a reflexive or an intensive form.

As a participial phrase, it can act as the complement of a finite verb.  That is, in fact, the way that we express the continuous aspect in English:

They are now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

With the addition of a subject and a finite verb, we have a clause.

As you've already determined, and still as a participial phrase, your example can be used to modify a subject or an object:

His thoughts, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain, forced him to run away.

His actions were driven by his thoughts, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

In general, -ing forms can also be gerunds.  Unfortunately, I can't think offhand of a natural-sounding sentence which uses your unmodified phrase as a subject or an object.  The reflexive pronoun needs something to reflect. However:

Their now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain was quite unexpected.

We can prevent their now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

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