1 A man after the storm is usually in despair.

My friend wrote this sentence, and it is fairly understandable. But there was a little problem. It is clear that the "who is" is deleted, but when I put this "who is" in the sentence, I get a nonsensical sentence that is not even close to being understandable.

2 A man who is after the storm is usually in despair.

I can see that "after the storm" is used as the adjectival time prepositional phrase. It is used as adjective, but it does not seem right as is. Is this sentence correct? And if yes, why is that?

P.S. I find it very hard to use time prepositional phrase as an adjective that modifies a noun. Can you give me some examples of this usage?

1 Answer 1


In your example, although after the storm follows A man it is not used as an adjectival modifying A man but as an adverbial modifying the entire clause. You can move that adverbial to other positions without changing the sense of the sentence:

A man is usually in despair after a storm.
After a storm a man is usually in despair.

In fact, the position where your friend has placed the phrase is the least likely and most awkward possible, precisely because it suggests that the phrase is a part of the preceding noun phrase.

It is very rare in English to find a temporal locative attributed to an entity. Such expressions are almost always attached to events or predications. When we wish to speak of a temporal location as 'characteristic' of an entity we usually use the location as an attributive nominal or attach it to the entity with an of phrase:

12th-century architecture is revolutionary.
People of the 16th century still embraced a fundamentally theocentric worldview.

  • So it is not incorrect, but awkward? What I thought was that there should and must be commas like this: A man, after a storm, is usually in despair. I don't understand how the commas are not needed in this case. Sep 19, 2015 at 21:29
  • @storm'scoming Yes, comma brackets help, because they divorce the adverbial from the nominal. But either the beginning or end of the sentence would be more natural. Sep 19, 2015 at 21:33

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