Absolute Phrases: Introduction
Definition and rules. An absolute
phrase is a modifier (quite
often a participle), or a modifier
and a few other words, that attaches to a sentence
or a noun, with no conjunction.
An absolute phrase cannot contain a finite
Absolute phrases usually consist of a noun and a modifier that modifies
this noun, NOT another noun in the sentence.
Absolute phrases are optional in sentences, i.e., they can be removed
without damaging the grammatical integrity of the sentence. Since
absolute phrases are optional in the sentence, they are often set
off from the sentence with commas or, less often, with dashes. We
normally explain absolute phrases by saying that they modify entire
sentences, rather than one word. This is an important concept, since
many similar phrases that we work with modify other words. For example,
adjectives modify nouns, and adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives,
and other adverbs. That said, however, in some cases, it seems to
make more sense to say that absolute phrases modify nouns. We will
look at some of these examples a bit later.
First, let's look at some examples of absolute phrases:
Examples of Absolute Phrases:
The absolute phrases look like this:
stronger than ever, Nexisa resolved not to give up until
she had achieved her dreams.
The sun shining bright
and the pale blue sky forming a backdrop of the Sacre Coeur,
Carl stepped into his future as a traveler and observer.
- Still young boys, Matt and Erin Billy awoke early one Christmas
morning with sleepy eyes, completely unaware
that they were sleeping not in the beds they had gone to sleep
in, but in one of their presents that year -- a new set of bunk
We finished the hearty meal quickly, our
appetites satisfied, our minds at peace.
All things being
equal, the active voice tends to be correct more often
than the passive on standardized tests.
Please notice that in every case the absolute phrase provides
some sort of information that works to put the whole sentence
or idea in context. Please also notice that the absolute phrases
themselves do NOT contain verbs, nor
are they connected to the main sentence with a conjunction. Finally,
please notice that the primary components of most (but not all)
of these absolute phrases are a noun
+ a modifier, although it is
possible to use only a modifier.
If that's confusing, don't worry -- we'll look at these patterns
in a bit more detail on the next page.
Go to the next page!
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