Never one to mince his words, Antonio was the perfect dissembler; even an outright fabrication was delivered with aplomb.

Bold part is OK. However, I am really struggling to understand other parts.

"Never one to mince his words": What is the subject of the sentence? What is the tense used? What does "to" stand for in the sentence?

"even an outright fabrication was delivered with aplomb": Why the sentence is passive past? Does passive past makes the sentence sarcastic?


This absolute pattern:

Never one to {verb phrase}, {subject} ...

means that {subject} is someone who never {verbs}

Never one to drink in moderation, he had six glasses of beer with dinner.

verb phrase = drink in moderation
subject = he

You can think of it as an inversion:

He had six glasses of beer with dinner, never (being) one to drink in moderation.

There is no tensed verb in the absolute clause.

P.S. We also say things like:

He was never one to take big risks.

He was not someone who would ever take big risks.


Never one to mince his words,

Is a dependent clause--not a sentence. It merely describes Antonio. It does not contain a subject. "to" + "mince" = an infinitive, giving the verb mince noun-like qualities. In other words, it allows mince to describe his words (in light of never).

The independent clause

even an outright fabrication was delivered with aplomb.

is, as you stated, both past tense and of passive voice. A sentence that is passive is not necessarily sarcastic and vice-versa. The sarcastic nature of a sentence lies in the exaggerated description used.

  • Thank you. However, I still don't get "Never one to mince his words."What does it mean? What does "to" stand for? Is there no tense or modal?
    – diogenes
    Mar 10 '16 at 21:15
  • "to" allows the verb "mince" to be used as a description of how he never uses his words. Mar 10 '16 at 21:19
  • @diogenes to mince is a marked infinitive; for the sense, see Collins s.v. mince, sense 2. Mar 10 '16 at 22:23

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