We have agreed to term one-member sentences those sentences which have no separate subject and predicate but one main part only instead (see p. 190).

Among these there is the type of sentence whose main part is a noun (or a substantivised part of speech), the meaning of the sentence being that the thing denoted by the noun exists in a certain place or at a certain time. Such sentences are frequent, for example, in stage directions of plays. A few examples from modern authors will suffice: Night. A lady's bed-chamber in Bulgaria, in a small town near the Dragoman Pass, late in November in the year 1885. (SHAW) The sixth of March, 1886. (Idem) The landing dock of the Cunard Line. (FITCH) Living room in the house of Philip Phillimore. (L. MITCHELL)

Compare also the following passage from a modern novel: No birds singing in the dawn. A light wind making the palm trees sway their necks with a faint dry formal clicking. The wonderful hushing of rain on Mareotis. (DURRELL) Such sentences bear a strong resemblance to two-member sentences having a present participle for their predicate, which we have considered on p. 202 ff. It is the context that will show to which of the two types the sentence belongs. In some cases the difference between them may be vague or even completely neutralised.

There are some more types of one-member clauses and sentences. Let us consider a few examples of the less common varieties. And what if he had seen them embracing in the moonlight? (HUXLEY) The main clause, if it is to be taken separately, contains only the words and what...? It is clear, however, that the sentence And what?, if at all possible, would have a meaning entirely different from that of the sentence as it stands in Huxley's text. Be that as it may, the clause and what is clearly a one-member clause.

A different kind of one-member clause is seen in the following compound sentence: A good leap, and perhaps one might clear the narrow terrace and so crash down yet another thirty feet to the sunbaked ground below. (HUXLEY) The first clause in its conciseness is very effective. These are the thoughts of a young man standing on a hill and looking down a steep ravine. The meaning is of course equivalent to that of a sentence like It would be enough to make a good leap, etc. But the first clause as it stands in the text is certainly a one-member clause, as every addition to it would entirely change its structure.

A special semantic type of one-member clauses is characterised by the following structure: "predicative + adjective expressing emotional assessment + noun or clause expressing what is assessed

Infinitive Sentences 251

by the adjective", for instance, Strange how different she had become — a strange new quiescence. (LAWRENCE) The main clause might of course have been a two-member one: It was strange how different she had become... but this variant would be stylistically very different from the original. It is also evident that this type of sentence is limited to a very small number of adjective predicatives.

Imperative sentences with no subject of the action mentioned are also to be classed among one-member sentences, e. g. Get away from me! (M. MITCHELL) Fear not, fair lady! (Idem) "Don't tell him anything," she cried rapidly. (Idem)

It would not, however, be correct to say that imperative sentences must necessarily have this structure. Occasionally, in emotional speech, they may have a subject, that is, they belong to the two-member type, as in the following instance: Don't you dare touch me! (Idem)


Besides the types of sentence considered so far, which are more or less universally recognised, there are some types which are often passed over in silence, but which deserve special attention.

We will here dwell on a type of sentence belonging to this category, namely, infinitive sentences.

The infinitive sentence is a one-member sentence with an infinitive as its main part. Infinitive sentences may, as far as we can judge now, be of two kinds. One type is represented by a sentence, always exclamatory, in which the infinitive, with the particle to, stands at the beginning of the sentence, and the general meaning of the sentence is strong feeling on the part of the speaker, who either wishes the thing expressed in the sentence to happen, or else is en-raptured by the fact that it is happening already. Let us first give a famous example from a poem by Robert Browning: Oh, to be in England, I Now that April's there, I And whoever wakes in England / Sees, some morning, unaware, / That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf / Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, / While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough / In England, now! The sentence is of course a complex one but the point is that the main clause is of the type we have just described. The exclamatory character is a necessary part of its characteristic.

Infinitive sentences are very common in represented speech (compare below, p. 333), for instance: To be alive! To have youth and the world before one. To think of the eyes and the smile of some youth of the region who by the merest chance had passed her and looked and who might never look again, but who, nevertheless, in so doing, had stirred her young soul to dreams. (DREISER) Compare also the two last sentences of the following extract: These were

252 One-Member Sentences and Elliptical Sentences

thrilling words, and wound up Catherine's feelings to the highest point of ecstasy. Her grateful and gratified heart could hardly restrain its expressions within the language of tolerable calmness. To receive so flattering an invitation! To have her company so warmly solicited! (J. AUSTEN) These are obviously one-member infinitive sentences, exclamatory ones, expressing the heroine's feelings, which have been briefly characterised in the preceding two sentences by the author.

Another type of infinitive sentence is an interrogative sentence beginning with the adverb why followed by an infinitive without the particle to, and sometimes preceded by the particle not, e. g. Why not give your friend the same pleasure? ("Times", quoted by Poutsma) It would not be right to treat such sentences as elliptical, with the auxiliary verb and the pronoun you as subject omitted. We can, of course, replace the sentence just quoted by the sentence Why should you not give your friend the same pleasure?, but this would annihilate the original sentence and put an entirely different one in its place: the sentence resulting from such a change would be a two-member sentence, with a definite subject, and with the infinitive made into a component of an interrogative (or negative-interrogative) finite verb form. The interrogative adverb why appears to be a necessary element in the structure of this type of infinitive sentence.

So it seems evident that types of infinitive sentences have their peculiar characteristics: one of them is always exclamatory, and the other always interrogative. This of course shows that the sphere of infinitive sentences is a very restricted one. 1


By "elliptical sentences" we mean sentences with one or more of their parts left out, which can be unambiguously inferred from the context. We will apply this term to any sentence of this kind, no matter what part or parts of it have been left out.

The main sphere of elliptical sentences is of course dialogue: it is here that one or more parts of a sentence are left out because they are either to be supplied from the preceding sentence (belonging to another speaker) or may be easily dispensed with. We take a few examples of elliptical sentences from contemporary dramatic

1 In Russian types of infinitive sentences are much more varied. While two of them correspond to the two types of English infinitive sentences (e.g., Подумать только! Почему не сказать ему сразу?), other types of Russian infinitive sentences find nothing to correspond to them in English. Among these various types we may mention sentences of a modal character, implying that something either must or cannot be done, e.g., Быть беде! Вам не успеть, Здесь ее пройти, etc.

Elliptical Sentences 253

works: Charlie.Have you asked her yet? Captain Jinks.Not often enough. (FITCH) It is clear here that the answer means: 'I have, but not often enough'. Aurelia.And by the way, before I forget it, I hope you'll come to supper to-night — here. Will you? After the opera. Captain Jinks.Delighted! (Idem) It is also clear here that Aurelia's second sentence means: 'Will you come to supper to-night?' and that the captain's answer means: 'I shall be delighted to come'. Whatever is understood from the preceding context is omitted, and only the words containing the rheme are actually pronounced. The same is found, for example, in the following bit of dialogue: Matthew.Why, my dear — you have a very sad expression! Cynthia.Why not? Matthew. Ifeel as if I were of no use in the world when 1 see sadness on a young face. Only sinners should feel sad. You have committed no sin! Cynthia.Yes, I have! (L. MITCHELL) Cynthia's first sentence obviously means: 'Why should I not have a sad expression?' and her second, 'Yes, I have committed a sin!' Similarly, in other cases everything but the words representing the rheme may be omitted.

Elliptical sentences or clauses can of course also occur outside dialogue. 1

1 The use of elliptical sentences linked to the phenomena of representation and substitution, which will be dealt with on p. 51 ff.

Chapter XXXII


Though the notions of simple sentence and composite sentence seem to be well defined and distinctly opposed to each other, this does not mean that there are no transitional elements between them. As in so many other cases, in the sphere of sentence types we find a considerable number of phenomena which, though not exactly transgressing the limits of the simple sentence, do not quite fit into it, and show some peculiarities which justify our treating them as transitional between the simple and the composite sentence.

Of these, we will consider the following syntactical phenomena: (1) sentences with homogeneous parts (sometimes also termed "contracted sentences"). (2) sentences with a dependent appendix, and (3) sentences with secondary predication. Different as they are in many respects, these phenomena are alike in that they gradually get out of the limits of the simple sentence and approach the composite sentence (some of them the compound, others the complex sentence).


By homogeneous parts of a sentence we mean parts of the same category (two or more subjects, two or more predicates, two or more objects, etc.), standing in the same relation to other parts of the sentence (for homogeneous secondary parts we should say: standing in the same relation to the same head word). According to the older terminology, such sentences used to be termed "contracted sentences", as if they had been "contracted" put of two or more simple sentences. For example, the sentence I met my relatives and friends would be said to have been "contracted" out of two sentences: I met my relatives, and I met my friends. This treatment does not seem to be justified, as it introduces a sort of historical element, implying the origin of such sentences, which is both doubtful and completely irrelevant for the study of these sentences as they exist in the modern language. 1

This category of sentences covers a wider variety of phenomena. Some types of sentences with homogeneous parts quite clearly fit into the general type of simple sentences. This is the case, for instance, with sentences having two or more homogeneous objects to one predicate, e. g. Its literary equipment consists of a single fixed shelf stocked with old paper-covered novels, broken-backed, coffee-stained, torn and thumbed; and a couple of little hanging shelves

1 However, this treatment has been recently revived on new grounds, for example, by L. Tesnièere in his book Eléments de syntaxe structurale, p. 325,

Sentences with a Dependent Appendix 255

with a few gifts on them ... (SHAW) The same can be said about sentences having two or more homogeneous adverbial modifiers to one predicate: / only came to thank you and return the coat you lent me. (Idem) And this is also true of sentences having two or more homogeneous attributes to one head word — even if we take an attribute to be a secondary part of a sentence on the same level as objects and adverbial modifiers. ' If, on the other hand, we take an attribute to be a part of phrase, rather than of a sentence, the presence of homogeneous attributes is still more irrelevant for the general character of the sentence.

However, the number of homogeneous parts in a sentence can be much larger than that. We will not here give examples of the gradual growth of a sentence due to accumulation of homogeneous parts but we will at once proceed to sentences in which only the subject keeps, as it were, the sentence together: it is the case when there are two verbal predicates, and each predicate has its objects, adverbial modifiers, attributes to nouns functioning as objects, etc.: Louka makes way proudly for her, and then goes into the house. (SHAW) Madame Michel put down her netting and surveyed him sharply over her glasses. (R. MAGAULAY) Compare also: She caught the thoughtful, withdrawn, disengaged look that rested on the girl and boy: and, glancing back at the girl, saw an expression in the sullen grey eyes that perplexed her. (Idem)

The reason why we cannot call this sentence compound is that it has only one subject and thus cannot be separated into two clauses. If we repeat the subject before the second predicate we shall get a compound sentence consisting of two clauses and identical in meaning with the original sentence with homogeneous parts. Thus the sentence Scarlett stood in her apple-green "second-day" dress in the parlor of Twelve Oaks amid the blaze of hundreds of candles, jostled by the same throng as the night before, and saw the plain little face of Melanie Hamilton glow into beauty... (M. MITCHELL) cannot be described as a compound one because it has only one subject, but it cannot very well be described as a simple sentence either, as its unity depends on that subject alone while the predicates are different and each of them is accompanied by a set of secondary parts. So it will be safe to say that it stands somewhere between simple and compound sentences.


Under this head we will consider some phenomena which clearly overstep the limits of the simple 'sentence and tend towards the complex sentence, but which lack an essential feature of a complex

1 Compare above, p. 222 ff.

256 Transition from Simple to Composite Sentences

sentence. Some of these phenomena are common to English, Russian, and other languages, while some of them are typical of English alone.

In the first place, there are the phrases consisting of the conjunction than and a noun, pronoun, or phrase following an adjective or adverb in the comparative degree, as in these sentences: ...I've known many ladies who were prettier than you... (M. MITCHELL) Come cheer up: it takes less courage to climb down than to face capture: remember that. (SHAW) It would always be possible to expand this appendix into a clause by adding the required form of the verb be (or do, or, in some cases, can, etc.) Thus, for instance, the first of the above sentences can be expanded into I've known many ladies who were prettier than you are . . . and the second into . . . it takes less courage to climb down than it does to face capture. After this change we get a clause introduced by the conjunction than and the sentence is a complex one. But that should not make us think that in the original text the verb be or do has been "omitted". There is no ground whatever for such a view. The sentences have to be taken for what they are, and classified among those intermediate between a simple and a complex sentence.

Very similar to these are the sentences containing an adjective or adverb, which may be preceded by the adverb as, and an additional part consisting of the conjunction as and some other word (an adjective, a noun, or an adverb), as in the following examples: His expression had been as bland and clear as the day without. (BUECHNER) The conduct of a widow must be twice as circumspect as that of a matron. (M. MITCHELL) In each case a finite verb might be added at the end (either be, or do, or have, or can, etc.), and then the sentence would become a complex one. But this is irrelevant for the syntactical characteristic of the original sentences, as given above. They contain something which does not fit into the pattern of a simple sentence, yet at the same time they lack something that is necessary to make the sentence complex. So it is most natural to say that they occupy an intermediate position between the two.

Now we shall consider the type of sentence containing a phrase which is introduced by a subordinating conjunction: Tristram had stood about picking up letters, arranging things, as Chough preparing with some difficulty just the situation he wanted. (BUECHNER) The subordinate part as though preparing is here clearly distinguished from the secondary parts expressed by participle phrases, picking up letters and arranging things. Catherine, though a little disappointed, had too much good nature to make any opposition, and, the others rising up, Isabella had only time to press her friend's hand and say, "Good-bye, my dear love," before they hurried off. (J. AUSTEN) It seems much better to say that the phrase though

Secondary Predication 257

a little disappointed is a subordinate part than to suppose that it is a subordinate clause, with the subject she and the link verb was ''omitted". As it is, the phrase had best be described as a loose attribute to the subject of the sentence. Compare: Such a compliment recalled all Catherine's consciousness, and silenced her directly; and, though pointedly applied to by the General for her choice of the prevailing colour of the paper and hangings, nothing like an opinion on the subject could be drawn from her. (J. AUSTEN) There are some few cases of a subordinating conjunction being used in a simple sentence, thus introducing no subordinate clause of any kind. It may be used to introduce a second homogeneous part: With these feelings, she rather dreaded than sought for the first view of that well-known spire which would announce her within twenty miles from home. (J. AUSTEN)

Sometimes a secondary part of a sentence is added on to it, connected with the main body of the sentence by a co-ordinating conjunction, although there is not in the main body any part that could in any sense be considered to be homogeneous with the part thus added. Here is an example of this kind of sentence: Denis tried to escape, but in vain. (HUXLEY) It is probably best not to suppose that anything has been "omitted" in this sentence and may be sup-plied. The sentence Denis tried to escape, but it was in vain, and possible other variants would be grammatically entirely different from the actual text.

The co-ordinating conjunction makes it difficult to term such phrases loose secondary parts of the sentence: it gives them something of a separate status. As in all preceding instances, each of the sentences might be made into a compound sentence by adding a noun or pronoun, and a link verb: Denis tried to escape, but it was in vain. The sentence thus obtained is compound, but it must not be taken as a starting point in the syntactical study of the original sentence, as given above, which is intermediate between a simple and a composite sentence.

Sentences containing a part thus introduced by a subordinating or co-ordinating conjunction are best classed as sentences with a dependent appendix.


Another syntactical phenomenon which is best, considered under this heading of transition to the composite sentence is based on what is very aptly termed "secondary predication". Before starting to discuss the syntactical phenomena involved, we shall therefore have to explain briefly what is meant by secondary predication.

In every sentence there is bound to be predication, without which there would be no sentence. In a usual two-member sentence the

9 Б. А. Ильиш

258 Transition from Simple to Composite Sentences

predication is between the subject and the predicate. In most sentences this is the only predication they contain. However, there are also sentences which contain one more predication, which is not between the subject and the predicate of the sentence. This predication may conveniently be termed secondary predication. 1

In Modern English there are several ways of expressing secondary predication. One of them is what is frequently termed the complex object, as seen in the sentences, I saw him run, We heard them sing, The public watched the team play, I want you to come to-morrow, We expect you to visit us, etc. Let us take the first of these sentences for closer examination. The primary predication in this sentence is between the subject I and the predicate saw. I is the doer of the action expressed by the predicate verb. But in this sentence there is one more predication, that between him and run: the verb run expresses the action performed by him. This predication is obviously a secondary one: him is not the subject of a sentence or a clause, and run is not its predicate. The same can be said about all the sentences given above.

On the syntactic function of the group him run (or of its elements) views vary. The main difference is between those who think that him run is a syntactic unit, and those who think that him is one part of the sentence, and run another. If the phrase is taken as a syntactic unit, it is very natural to call it a complex object: it stands in an object relation to the predicate verb saw and consists of two elements.

If, on the other hand, the phrase him run is not considered to be a syntactic unit, its first element is the object, and its second element is conveniently termed the objective predicative.

The choice between the two interpretations remains arbitrary and neither of them can be proved to be the only right one. In favour of the view that the phrase is a syntactical unit, a semantic reason can be put forward. In some cases the two elements of the phrase cannot be separated without changing the meaning of the sentence. This is true, for instance, of sentences with the verb hate. Let us take as an example the sentence, I hate you to go, which means much the same as I hate the idea of your going, or The idea of your going is most unpleasant to me. Now, if we separate the two elements of the phrase, that is, if we stop after its first element: I hate you . . . , the sense is completely changed. This shortened version expresses hatred for "you" which the original full version certainly did not imply.

1 The Russian equivalent of the term "secondary predication" was introduced by Prof. G. Vorontsova in her excellent paper. See Г. Н. Воронцова, Вторичная предикативность в английском языке. Иностранные языки в школе, 1950, № 6.

Secondary Predication 259

H. Sweet, discussing these phenomena, referred to the sentence / like boys to be quiet, which, as he pointed out, does not imply even the slightest liking for boys. !

In other cases, that is, with other verbs, the separation of the two elements may not bring about a change in the meaning of the sentence. Thus, if we look at our example / saw him run, and if we stop after him: I saw him, this does not contradict the meaning of the original sentence: I saw him run implies that / saw him.

Another case in which the two elements of the phrase cannot be separated is found when the verb expresses some idea like order or request and the second element of the phrase is a passive infinitive. With the sentence He ordered the man to be summoned we cannot possibly stop after man.

There is no doubt, therefore, that with some verbs (arid some nouns, for that matter) the two elements of the phrase following the predicate verb cannot be separated. It is, however, not certain that this is a proof of the syntactic unity of the phrase. This is again one of the phenomena which concern the mutual relation of the semantic and syntactic aspects of the language. The choice between the two possibilities: complex object or object and objective predicative remains largely a matter of arbitrary decision. If we make up our mind in favour of the second alternative, and state in each case two separate parts of the sentence, this will add to our list of secondary parts one more item: the objective predicative. The objective predicative need not be an infinitive: it may be a participle (I saw him running, We heard them singing), an adjective (I found him ill. They thought him dead), a stative (I found him asleep), sometimes an adverb, and a prepositional phrase. The sentence I found him there admits of two different interpretations. One of them, which seems to be the more usual, takes the sentence as an equivalent of the sentence There I found him: the adverb there is then an adverbial modifier belonging to the verb find. The other interpretation would make the sentence equivalent to the sentence I found that he was there. In this latter case the adverb there does not show where the action of finding took place, and it is not an adverbial modifier belonging to the predicate verb found. It is part of the secondary predication group him there and has then to be taken as an objective predicative: I found him there is syntactically the same as I found him ill, or I found him asleep.

The choice between the two alternatives evidently depends on factors lying outside grammar. From a strictly grammatical viewpoint it can be said that the difference between an adverbial modifier and an objective predicative is here neutralised.

1 H. Sweet, A New English Grammar, Part I, § 124. 9*

260Transition from Simple to Composite Sentences

This type of secondary predication brings the sentence closer to a composite one.

O. Jespersen has proposed the term "nexus" for every predicative grouping of words, no matter by what grammatical means it is realised. He distinguishes between a "junction", which is not a predicative group of words (e. g. reading man) and "nexus", which is one (e. g. the man reads).l If this term is adopted, we may say that in the sentence I saw him run there are two nexuses: the primary one I saw, and the secondary him run. In a similar way, in the sentence I found him ill, the primary nexus would be I found, and the secondary him ill.


Another type of secondary predication may be seen in the so-called absolute construction. This appears, for instance, in the following example: Only when his eyes at last met her own. . . was he reassured that for her what had happened had simply happened. She was prepared, the situation already falling gracefully into place about her, to consider it, incredibly enough he thought, as no more than that. (BUECHNER) Here the phrase the situation already falling gracefully into place about her constitutes an absolute construction. 2 The absolute construction is of course a case of secondary predication, or, in Jespersen's terminology, a nexus. The participle falling, which denotes an action performed by the thing denoted by the noun situation, is not a predicate, and situation is not the subject either of a sentence or of a clause. This is evidence that the predication contained in the phrase is a secondary one.

Participles seem to be the most widely used types of predicative element in the absolute construction. We find them, for example, in the following sentences. The preliminary greetings spoken, Denis found an empty chair between Gombauld and Jenny and sat down. (HUXLEY) Off the table leapt the monkey, the tails of his jacket flying out behind him and his silk hat knocked askew as he landed

1 See O. Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar, p. 97, 114 ff.; O. Jespersen, A Modern English Grammar, Part III, p. 203 ff. However, Jespersen used the term "nexus" in so wide a sense that, with him, it even penetrated into the sphere of lexicology: thus, he would call the noun arrival a nexus substantive on the ground that, for example, the phrase the doctor's arrival was in some general way analogous to the sentence the doctor arrived. Of course we will not accept this wide interpretation of the term and we will use it only in a syntactical sense, as a name for a predicative relation between two words or phrases.

2 The term "absolute" is here used in the original sense of the Latin absolutus, that is, 'absolved', 'free', 'independent', and it has nothing to do with the meaning of the word which is the opposite of 'relative'. The term is clearly a conventional one.

The Absolute Construction 261

and leapt again to a streak of light that sprawled in widening, crisscrossed perspective on the floor in the center of the room so that Emma and Bone had to turn about in their chairs to see him spin around and around there making no sound. (BUECHNER) The subject part of an absolute construction is sometimes represented by a noun or phrase denoting some part of the body or dress (here it is the dress) of the being denoted by the subject of the sentence. In this particular case it is the tails of his jacket and his silk hat, his referring to the monkey. This example has its peculiarity, however: the two absolute constructions have a subordinate clause attached to them, which in its turn has a subordinate clause of the second-degree (a clause of result) depending on it.

The absolute construction expresses what is usually called accompanying circumstances — something that happens alongside of the main action. This secondary action may be the cause of the main action, or its condition, etc., but these relations are not indicated by any grammatical means. The position of the absolute construction before or after the main body of the sentence gives only a partial clue to its concrete meaning. Thus, for example, if the construction denotes some secondary action which accompanies the main one without being either its cause or its condition, it always follows the main body of the sentence; if the construction indicates the cause, or condition, or time of the main action, it can come both before and after the main body of the sentence.

Thus the grammatical factor plays only a subordinate part in determining the sense relations between the absolute construction and the main body of the sentence.

The stylistic colouring of the absolute construction should also be noted. It is quite different in this respect from the constructions with the objective predicative, which may occur in any sort of style. The absolute construction is, as we have seen, basically a feature of literary style and unfit for colloquial speech. Only a few more or less settled formulas such as weather permitting may be found in ordinary conversation. Otherwise colloquial speech practically always has subordinate clauses where literary style may have absolute constructions.

A participle is by no means a necessary component of an absolute construction. The construction can also consist of a noun and some other word or phrase, whose predicative relation to the noun is made clear by the context. Here are a few examples: Bone stood in a patch of sunlight on the gray carpet, his hands behind him, his face in shadow. (BUECHNER) This example is characteristic in so far as the subject of the sentence is a noun denoting a human being, the predicate group tells of his position in space, and the subjects of the two absolute constructions are nouns denoting parts of his body (his hands and his face), while the predicative parts of the constructions describe

262 Transition from Simple to Composite Sentences

the position of these parts (behind him and in the shadow). Breakfast over, Denis repaired to the terrace, and, sitting there, raised the enormous bulwark of the Times against the possible assaults of Mr Scogan. (HUXLEY) And here now he was beside Elizabeth, the memory of this encounter rich within him to bolster and pad, but sad in that it was presently and precisely incommunicable. (BUECHNER) This absolute construction is somewhat more developed than usual, there are two predicatives in it (rich . . . but sad), and a subordinate clause attached to the latter predicative (sad). It might be possible to argue that in each of these sentences the participle being is "omitted", so that we have here an elliptical participial absolute construction after all. But if we firmly adhere to the principle that nothing ought to be considered omitted unless there is overwhelming evidence that this is really so, we shall recognise the absolute construction without participle as a construction in its own right, existing alongside of the participle construction.

In the following sentence there are two absolute constructions, one at the beginning, and the other at the end of the sentence: Her golden arm stretched out, she pointed with a golden finger, and as usual Bone's eyes followed her direction and stopped at the bronze lady standing unclothed in the fountain before them, in her arms a shallow bowl from which water trickled. (BUECHNER)

An absolute construction may be found in narrative style where is does not produce the impression of high-flown language, but is decidedly uncolloquial in character. Here are some examples from modern novels: She had hoped that the war being over, life would gradually resume its old face. (M. MITCHELL) Though this is a kind of indirect speech rendering the heroine's thoughts, it is fairly certain that her thoughts did not run like this: The war being over, life will gradually resume its old face. This is far too literary to have been in the mind of a person thinking silently, or even talking in an informal atmosphere. In the author's rendering of her thoughts, however, the absolute construction is perfectly all right. In a few minutes she returned, her eyes shining, her hair still damp. (SNOW) This again is normal narrative style. The semantic connections between the absolute constructions and the main body of the sentence are different in the two sentences, and they become clear from the lexical meanings of the words, and partly also from the position which the absolute construction occupies in the sentence. Thus, in our first example the absolute construction the war being over clearly has a temporal connection with the main body of the sentence, and in our second example it is evident, both from the lexical meanings of the words involved and from the position of the two absolute constructions after the main body of the sentence, that the relation is that usually called "accompanying circumstances".

The Absolute Construction 263

In the following sentence both a parenthesis and an absolute construction come between the subject group and the predicate. The entire question of whom one loved, he continued, Emma looking up from her work for the first time as she listened, seemed to him of relative unimportance. (BUECHNER) It should also be noted that there is a subordinate clause (of) whom one loved belonging to the subject group, and another subordinate clause, as she listened, belonging to the absolute construction, so that the number of elements separating the predicate of the main clause (seemed to be. . .) from its subject (the . . . question) is quite considerable. However, no misunderstanding can arise here, though there are three finite verb forms (loved, continued, and listened) intervening between the subject question and its predicate seemed . . . This is due to the fact that each of these three finite verb forms is closely connected with Its own subject (in every case a pronoun immediately preceding it), namely, one loved, he continued, she listened. Besides, it should be noted that neither loved nor listened would have made any sense in connection with the subject question, and as to the verb continued, it might be connected with the subject question only if the verb were followed by an infinitive of appropriate meaning, e. g. the question continued to worry him. As it is, continued here means 'continued to speak', which can only be connected with a subject representing a human being.

One more remark about the absolute construction is necessary here. It concerns the semantic ties between the absolute construction and the rest of the sentence. For example, we can say that in the sentence She had hoped that the war being over, life would gradually resume its old face the relations between the construction and the rest of the sentence are causal: we can say that the absolute construction is here a loose adverbial modifier of cause. On the other hand, in the sentence Weather permitting, we shall start on an excursion the relations between the construction and the rest of the sentence are those of condition, and the absolute construction may be said to be a loose adverbial modifier of condition. But now the question is, how do we know that it is cause in one example, and condition in the other? This is not expressed by any grammatical means and it only follows from the lexical meanings of the words and the general meaning of the sentence. What is expressed by grammatical means is merely the subordinate position of the absolute construction. All the rest lies outside the sphere of grammar.

Such, then, are the syntactical phenomena which occupy a place somewhere between the simple and the composite sentence and which may therefore be considered as a kind of stepping stone from the one to the other.

Now we proceed to study the various kinds of composite sentences.

Chapter XXXIII


At the beginning of the syntactical part of this book we commented briefly on the problem of classifying composite sentences. We will adopt as a first principle of classification the way in which the parts of a composite sentence (its clauses) are joined together. This may be achieved either by means of special words designed for this function, or without the help of such words. In the first case, the method of joining the clauses is syndetic, and the composite sentence itself may be called syndetic. In the second case the method of joining the clauses is asyndetic, and so is the composite sentence itself.


We should distinguish between two variants of syndetic joining of sentences, the difference depending on the character and syntactic function of the word used to join them.

This joining word (let us call it this for the time being) may either be a conjunction, a pronoun or an adverb. If it is a conjunction, it has no other function in the sentence but that of joining the clauses together.

If it is a pronoun or an adverb (i. e. a relative pronoun or a relative adverb), its function in the sentence is twofold: on the one hand, it is a part of one of the two clauses which are joined (a subject, object, adverbial modifier, etc.), and on the other hand, it serves to join the two sentences together, that is, it has a connecting function as well.

It is to syndetic composite sentences that the usual classification into compound and complex sentences should be applied in the first place.

These are the lines indicated for the Russian language by Prof. N. Pospelov in 1950. lThe question of classifying asyndetic composite sentences will have to be considered separately (see below, Chapter XL).

We start, then, from a distinction of compound sentences and complex sentences. The basic difference between the two types would appear to be clear enough: in compound sentences, the clauses of which they consist have as it were equal rights, that is, none of them is below the other in rank, they are co-ordinated.

1 See H. С. Поспелов, О грамматической природе и принципах классификации бессоюзных сложных предложений. Вопросы синтаксиса современного русского языка, 1950, стр. 338—354.

The Problem of Communication Types

In complex sentences, on the other hand, the clauses are not on an equal footing. In the simplest case, that of a complex sentence consisting of two clauses only, one of these is the main clause, and the other a subordinate clause, that is, it stands beneath the main clause in rank. Of course, there may be more than one main clause and more than one subordinate clause in a complex sentence.

So far the classification of syndetic composite sentences looks simple enough. But as we come to the problem of the external signs showing whether a clause is co-ordinated with another or subordinated to it, we often run into difficulties. As often as not a clear and unmistakable sign pointing this way or that is wanting. In such cases we have to choose between two possible ways of dealing with the problem. Either we shall have to answer the question in an arbitrary way, relying, that is, on signs that are not binding and may be denied; or else we shall have to establish a third, or inter-mediate, group, which cannot be termed either clear co-ordination or clear subordination, but is something between the two, or something indefinite from this point of view. It is also evident that the problem is connected with that of co-ordinating and subordinating conjunctions.


When discussing simple sentences we had to deal with communication types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.

With compound sentences this problem requires special treatment. If both (or all) clauses making up a compound sentence belong to the same communication type it is clear that the compound sentence belongs to this type, too. But there are also compound sentences consisting of clauses belonging to different communication types. In that case it is impossible to state to what type the compound sentence as a whole belongs. Let us consider a few instances of this kind.

There are sentences in which one clause is declarative and the other exclamatory, as in the following example: After all, she concluded, a monkey is a ridiculous animal, and how clever of Tristram to recognise the need for just such a ridiculousness among all his dinner parties. .. (BUECHNER) Such examples, however, appear to be rare. The following sentence had best be considered a compound sentence, with the first clause declarative, and the second elliptical and interrogative: These came nearer than most to meaning something to her, but what? (BUECHNER) The second clause, if completed, would apparently run something like this: ,. .but what did they mean? or, what could they mean?

2вв The Composite Sentence. Compound Sentences

This absence of a unified communication type in some compound sentences has given rise to doubts whether what we call a compound sentence can be called a sentence at all. The solution of the problem will of course depend on what we consider to be the necessary features of a sentence. If we accept unity of communication type as. one of them, formations lacking this feature will have to be excluded. This view would then make it necessary to develop a theory of units other than a sentence stretching between a full stop and another full stop, or a question mark, or an exclamation mark. We will not pursue this analysis any further but we will take the view that unity of communication type is not an indispensable feature, and go on recognising compound sentences as a special sentence type.

Compound sentences consist of clauses joined together by coordinating conjunctions. These are very few: and, but, or, for, yet, so (compare the chapter on conjunctions, p. 158). Concerning some of them there may be doubts whether they are conjunctions (thus, yet may also be supposed to be an adverb), and concerning the word for it may be doubtful whether it is co-ordinating or subordinating. The meanings of the conjunctions themselves are of course a question of lexicology. What concerns us here is the type of connection between the clauses in a compound sentence.

There has been some discussion about the degree of independence of the clauses making up a compound sentence. The older view was that they were completely independent of each other. It was supposed that these clauses were nothing but independent sentences with a co-ordinating conjunction between them indicating their semantic relations. Lately, however, the opinion has been expressed that the independence of the clauses, and especially of the second clause (and those which follow it, if any) is not complete, and that the structure of the second and following clauses is to some extent predetermined by the first. This view was put forward in the Academy's Grammar of the Russian language. It is pointed out here that the word order of the second clause may be influenced by the connection it has with the first, and that the verb forms of the predicates in co-ordinated clauses are frequently mutually dependent. 1 Part of this is more significant for the Russian language with its freer word order than for the English, but a certain degree of interdependence between the clauses is found in English, too.

We will now consider some questions of the grammatical structure of compound sentences in English.

The semantic relations between the clauses making up the compound sentence depend partly on the lexical meaning of the conjunc-

1 See Грамматика русского языка, т. II, ч. 2, стр. 177—178.

The Problem of Communication Types 267

tion uniting them, and partly on the meanings of the words making up the clauses themselves. It should be noted that the co-ordinating conjunctions differ from each other in definiteness of meaning: the conjunction but has an adversative meaning which is so clear and definite that there can hardly be anything in the sentence to materially alter the meaning conveyed by this conjunction. The meaning of the conjunction and, on the other hand, which is one of "addition", is wide enough to admit of shades being added to it by the meanings of other words in the sentence. This will be quite clear if we compare the following two compound sentences with clauses joined by this conjunction: The old lady had recognised Ellen's handwriting and her fat little mouth was pursed in a frightened way, like a baby who fears a scolding and hopes to ward it off by tears. (M. MITCHELL) The bazaar had taken place Monday night and today was only Thursday. (Idem) The first sentence has a shade of meaning of cause — result, and this is obviously due to the meanings of the words recognised and frightened. In the second sentence there is something like an adversative shade of meaning, and this is due to the relation in meaning between the word Monday in the first clause and that of the words only Thursday in the second. In a similar way other shades of meaning may arise from other semantic relations between words in two co-ordinate clauses.

Compound sentences with clauses joined by the conjunction or (or by the double conjunction either — or) seem to be very rare. Here are a few examples: The light fell either upon the smooth grey black of a pebble, or the shell of a snail with its brown, circular veins, or, falling into a raindrop, it expanded with such intensity of red, blue, and yellow the thin walls of water that one expected them to burst, and disappear. (V. WOOLF) I think I see them now with sparkling looks; or have they vanished while I have been writing this description of them? (HAZLITT) Are you afraid of their biting, or is it a metaphysical antipathy? (LAWRENCE)

As to the use of tenses in clauses making up a compound sentence, we should note that there is no general rule of their interdependence. However, in a number of cases we do find interdependence of co-ordinate clauses from this point of view. For instance, in the following compound sentence the tense of the first predicate verb is past perfect and that of the second past indefinite: She had come to meet the Marquise de Trayas, but she was half an hour too early. (R. WEST)

The number of clauses in a compound sentence may of course be greater than two, and in that case the conjunctions uniting the clauses may be different; thus, the second clause may be joined to the first by one conjunction, while the third is joined to the second by another, and so forth. We will only give one example: Gerald was disappointed, for he had wanted a son, but he nevertheless was

268 The Composite Sentence. Compound Sentences

pleased enough over his small black-haired daughter... (M. MITCHELL)

A typical example of a compound sentence with the conjunction so is the following: The band has struck, so we did our best without it.(FITCH)

Besides the conjunctions so far considered, there are a few more, which are generally classed as subordinating, but which in certain conditions tend to become co-ordinating, so that the sentences in which they occur may be considered to be compound rather than complex, or perhaps we might put it differently: the distinction between co-ordination and subordination, and consequently that between compound and complex sentences, is in such cases neutralised. This concerns mainly the conjunction while and the adverbial clauses of time introduced by it, and the conjunction though and the adverbial clauses of concession introduced by it. We will discuss these cases when we come to the respective types of adverbial subordinate clauses (see p. 392 ff., 397 ff.).

Chapter XXXIV


There is much more to be said about the complex sentence than about the compound. This is due to several causes, which are, however, connected with one another.

For one thing, the semantic relations which can be expressed by subordination are much more numerous and more varied than with co-ordination: all such relations as time, place, concession, purpose, etc. are expressly stated in complex sentences only.

Then again, the means of expressing subordination are much more numerous. There is here a great variety of conjunctions: when, after, before, while, till, until, though, although, albeit, that, as, because, since; a number of phrases performing the same function: as soon as, as long as, so long as, notwithstanding that, in order that, according as, etc. Besides, a certain number of conjunctive words are used: the relative pronouns who, which, that, whoever, whatever, whichever, and the relative adverbs where, how, whenever, wherever, however, why, etc.

We may note that the boundary line between conjunctions and relative adverbs is not quite clearly drawn. We shall also see this when we come to the adverbial clauses introduced by the word when and those introduced by the word where (see below, p. 286 ff.). Historically speaking, conjunctions develop from adverbs, and one word or another may prove to be in an intermediate stage, when there are no sufficient objective criteria to define its status.


The notions of declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentence, and also that of exclamatory sentence appear to be applicable to some types of complex sentences as well. For instance, if the main clause of a complex sentence is interrogative or imperative, this implies that the complex sentence as a whole is also interrogative or imperative respectively. A few examples will suffice to illustrate our point. Why couldn't she sense now that he was outside and come out? (DREISER) The main clause Why couldn't she sense now . .. and come out? is clearly interrogative, and this is enough to make the whole complex sentence interrogative, though the subordinate clause that he was outside (an object clause) is certainly not interrogative, and should, if anything, be termed declarative. This, it may be noted in passing, is an additional proof that the clause that he was outside is a subordinate clause: its type of communication is irrelevant for the type of communication to which the sentence as a whole belongs, while the type of the clause Why couldn't she sense .. . and come out? is decisive for it.

270 Complex Sentences

The same will be found to be the case in the following example: But who is to guarantee that I get the other sixty-five, and when? (DREISER) This is a slightly more complicated case. The main clause of course is who is to guarantee, and it is interrogative. The subordinate clause is that I get the other sixty-five, and it is followed by the words and when, which will probably be best described as an elliptical second subordinate clause, whose full text would run, and when I shall get it (which is an indirect question). It might also be described as a detached adverbial modifier added on to the subordinate clause that I shall get the other sixty-five. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the interrogative main clause But who is to guarantee.. .? is enough to make the entire sentence interrogative, no matter to what type the subordinate clause or clauses belong.

Now let us take a complex sentence with an imperative main clause: Never you mind how old she is. (SHAW) The main clause never you mind is imperative and that is enough to make the whole sentence imperative as well.

The same may be said about a number of other sentences


Above we defined a complex sentence as a sentence containing at least one subordinate clause. Any classification of complex sentences is therefore bound to be based on a classification of subordinate clauses. This will accordingly be our next task.

The problem of classifying subordinate clauses is one of the vexed questions of syntactic theory. Several systems have been tried out at various times, and practically each of them has been shown to suffer from some drawback or other. Some of the classifications so far proposed have been inconsistent, that is to say, they were not based on any one firm principle of division equally applied to all clauses under consideration.

We will first of all point out what principles of classification are possible and then see how they work when applied to Modern English. It is quite conceivable that a sort of combined principle will have to be evolved, that is, one principle might be taken as the ruling one, and the main types established in accordance with it, and another principle, or perhaps other principles, taken as secondary ones and applied for a further subdivision of clauses obtained according to the first principle.

It might also prove expedient to have two different classifications independent of each other and based on different principles.

As we proceed to point out the various principles which may be taken as a base for classification, we shall see that even that is a matter of some difficulty, and liable to lead to discussion and controversy.

Types of Subordinate Clauses 271

The first opposition in the sphere of principles would seem to be that between meaning, or contents, and syntactical function. But this opposition is not in itself sufficient to determine the possible variants of classification. For instance, under the head of "meaning" we may bring either such notions as "declarative" (or "statement") and "interrogative" (or "question"), and, on the other hand, a notion like "explanatory". Under the head of "function" we may bring either the position of a clause within a complex sentence, defined on the same principles as the position of a sentence part within a simple sentence, or (as is sometimes done) on the analogy between a clause and a part of speech performing the same function within a simple sentence. Besides, for certain types of clauses there may be ways of characterising them in accordance with their peculiarities, which find no parallel in other clauses. For instance, clauses introduced by a relative pronoun or relative adverb may be termed "relative clauses", which, however, is not a point of classification (see below, p. 273 ff.).

In order to obtain a clearer idea of how these various principles would work out in practice, let us take a complex sentence and define its subordinate clauses in accordance with each of these principles. Let the sentence be this: It was unreal, grotesquely unreal, that morning skies which dawned so tenderly blue could be profaned with cannon smoke that hung over the town like low thunder clouds, that warm noontides filled with the piercing sweetness of massed honeysuckle and climbing roses could be so fearful, as shells screamed into the streets, bursting like the crack of doom, throwing iron splinters hundreds of yards, blowing people and animals to bits. (M. MITCHELL) Let us first look at the two subordinate clauses introduced by the conjunction that: (1) that morning skies. .. could be profaned with cannon smoke, (2) that warm noontides.. , could be so fearful. From the point of view of meaning they may be called declarative clauses, or subordinate statements, las they contain statements which are expressed in subordinate clauses. From the point of view of function they may be termed, if we consider them as something parallel to parts of a simple sentence, either appositions to the impersonal it which opens the sentence, or subject clauses, if we take the view that the it is merely an introductory subject, or a "sham" subject, as it is sometimes called. If, last not least, we wish to compare the clauses to the part of speech which might perform the corresponding function in a simple sentence, we may call them noun clauses, or substantive clauses, which is a very usual way of treating them in English school grammars.

1 The latter term is used by H. Poutsma (see A Grammar of Late Modern English, Part I, 2nd half, p. 607 ff.).

272 Complex Sentences

Now let us turn to the clause coming after the noun skies of the first subordinate clause: which dawned so tenderly blue. From the viewpoint of meaning this clause can also be said to be declarative, or a subordinate statement. It may also be termed a relative clause, because it is introduced by a relative pronoun and has a relative connection with the noun skies (or the phrase morning skies). From the functional point of view it may be called an attributive clause, and if we compare it to the part of speech which might perform the corresponding function in a simple sentence, we may call it an adjective clause, which is also common in English school grammars. The same considerations also apply to the clause that hung over the town like low thunder clouds; it is evident from the context that the word that which opens the clause is a relative pronoun (without it the clause would have no subject). Now we take the last subordinate clause: as shells screamed into the streets, bursting like the crack of doom, throwing iron splinters hundreds of yards, blowing people and animals to bits. This again would be a declarative clause or a subordinate statement, and from the viewpoint of function it may be termed an adverbial clause, as it corresponds to an adverbial modifier in a simple sentence. More exactly, it might be termed an adverbial clause of time. Now, for the last