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2009-12-14 20:11:46
Gerunds Infinitives Modifiers

Gerunds, Infinitives, Modifiers
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  1. What is an appositive phrase?
    An appositive is a re-naming or amplification of a word that immediately precedes it. (An appositive, then is the opposite of an oppositive.) Frequently another kind of phrase will serve in apposition.

    My favorite teacher, a fine chess player in her own right, has won several state-level tournaments. [Noun phrase as appositive]

    The best exercise, walking briskly, is also the least expensive. (Gerund phrase as appositive)

    Sara's goal in life, to become an occupational therapist, is within her grasp this year, at last. (Infinitive phrase as appositive)
  2. What is a prepositional phrase?
    A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, a noun or pronoun that serves as the object of the preposition, and, more often than not, an adjective or two that modifies the object.

    Ernest Hemingway apparently fell in love with the rhythms of his prepositional phrases at the beginning of his short story "Hills Like White Elephants":

    The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went onto Madrid.

    Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where:"in forty minutes," "in the sun, against the side, etc." Prepositional phrases can perform other functions, however:

    Except Jo, the children were remarkably like their father.

    • A prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence constitutes an introductory modifier, which is usually a signal for a comma.
    • However, unless an introductory prepositional phrase is unusually long, we seldom need to follow it with a comma.You may have learned that ending a sentence with a preposition is a serious breach of grammatical etiquette. It doesn't take a grammarian to spot a sentence-ending preposition, so this is an easy rule to get caught up on (!).
    • Although it is often easy to remedy the offending preposition, sometimes it isn't, and repair efforts sometimes result in a clumsy sentence. Based on shaky historical precedent, the rule itself is a latecomer to the rules of writing.
    • Those who dislike the rule are fond of recalling Churchill's rejoinder:<"That is nonsense up with which I shall not put." We should also remember the child's complaint (attributed to E.B. White):"What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?"
  3. What is an absolute phrase?
    Usually (but not always, as we shall see), an absolute phrase (also called a nominative absolute) is a group of words consisting of a noun or pronoun and a participle as well as any related modifiers.

    Absolute phrases do not directly connect to or modify any specific word in the rest of the sentence; instead, they modify the entire sentence, adding information. They are always treated as parenthetical elements and are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or a pair of commas (sometimes by a dash or pair of dashes).

    Notice that absolute phrases contain a subject (which is often modified by a participle), but not a true finite verb;

    • Their reputation as winners secured by victory, the New York Liberty charged into the semifinals.
    • The season nearly finished, Rebecca Lobo and Sophie Witherspoon emerged as true leaders.
    • The two superstars signed autographs into the night, their faces beaming happily.

    When the participle of an absolute phrase is a form of to be, such as being or having been, the participle is often left out but understood;

    • The season [being] over, they were mobbed by fans in Times Square.
    • [Having been] Stars all their adult lives, they seemed used to the attention.

    Another kind of absolute phrase is found after a modified noun; it adds a focusing detail or point of focus to the idea of the main clause. This kind of absolute phrase can take the form of a prepositional phrase, an adjective phrase, or a noun phrase.

    The old firefighter stood over the smoking ruins, his senses alert to any sign of another flare-up.

    His subordinates, their faces sweat-streaked and smudged with ash, leaned heavily against the firetruck.

    They knew all too well how all their hard work could be undone — in an instant.

    It is not unusual for the information supplied in the absolute phrase to be the most important element in the sentence. In fact, in descriptive prose, the telling details will often be wrapped into a sentence in the form of an absolute phrase:

    Coach Nykesha strolled onto the court, her arms akimbo and a large silver whistle clenched between her teeth.

    The new recruits stood in one corner of the gym, their uniforms stiff and ill fitting, their faces betraying their anxiety.

    A noun phrase can also exist as an absolute phrase:

    Your best friends, where are they now, when you need them?

    And then there was my best friend Sally — the dear girl — who has certainly fallen on hard times.

    It might be useful to review the material on Misplaced Modifiers because it is important not to confuse an absolute phrase with a misplaced modifier.
  4. What is an infinitive phrase?
    • An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive — the root of the verb preceded by to — and any modifiers or complements associated with it.
    • Infinitive phrases can act as adjectives, adverbs, and nouns.

    Her plan to subsidize child care won wide acceptance among urban politicians. [modifies plan, functions as an adjective]

    She wanted to raise taxes. [noun-object of the sentence]

    To watch Uncle Billy tell this story is an eye-opening experience. [noun-subject of the sentence]

    To know her is to love her. [noun, predicate nominative]

    Juan went to college to study veterinary medicine. [tells us why he went, so it's an adverb]
  5. What is a gerund phrase?
    • Gerund Phrase
    • Gerunds, verbals that end in -ing and that act as nouns, frequently are associated with modifiers and complements in a gerund phrase.

    • These phrases function as units and can do anything that a noun can do.
    • Notice that other phrases, especially prepositional phrases, are frequently part of the gerund phrase.

    Cramming for tests is not a good study strategy. [gerund phrase as subject]

    John enjoyed swimming in the lake after dark. [gerund phrase as object]

    I'm really not interested in studying biochemistry for the rest of my life. [gerund phrase as object of the preposition in ]
  6. What is a participial phrase?
    Participial phrase

    Present participles, verbals ending in -ing, and past participles, verbals that end in -ed (for regular verbs) or other forms (for irregular verbs), are combined with complements and modifiers and become part of important phrasal structures.

    Participial phrases always act as adjectives. When they begin a sentence, they are often set off by a comma (as an introductory modifier); otherwise, participial phrases will be set off by commas if they are parenthetical elements.

    The stone steps, having been worn down by generations of students, needed to be replaced. [modifies "steps"]

    Working around the clock, the firefighters finally put out the last of the California brush fires. [modifies "firefighters"]

    The pond, frozen over since early December, is now safe for ice-skating. [modifies "pond"]
  7. What is a subordinate clause?
    Another term for dependent clause is subordinate clause: this means that the clause is subordinate to another element (the independent clause) and depends on that other element for its meaning.

    • The subordinate clause is created by a subordinating conjunction or dependent word.
    • An independent clause, "She is older than her brother" (which could be its own sentence), can be turned into a dependent or subordinate clause when the same group of words begins with a dependent word (or a subordinating conjunction in this case): "Because she is older than her brother, she tells him what to do."

    • Here is a list of subordinating conjunctions:
    • Cause: As, Because, since, so that

    Condition: As if, assuming that, If, In case, Unless, When, Whether

    Contrast: Although, Even though, Though

    Place: Where, Wherever

    TIme: After, As soon as, Before, Since, Until, When, Whenever, While
  8. What are restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses, essential and nonessential appositives?
    Restrictive and Nonrestrictive clauses are also known as essential and Nonessential clauses or essential or nonessential appositives.

    • The punctuation goes as follows:
    • Essential= Essential Information=No Comma.

    I bumped into my second-grade teacher, whom I hadn't seen in years.(nonessential)

    Queen Latifah, who is best known as a rap artist, has also been a television host and an actress. (Nonessential)
  9. Verbals, Particles, Gerunds and Infinitives
    Verbals are words that seem to carry the idea of action or being but do not function as a true verb. They are sometimes called "nonfinite" (unfinished or incomplete) verbs.

    • Because time is involved with all verb forms, whether finite or nonfinite, however, following a logical Tense Sequence is important. Verbals are frequently accompanied by other, related words in what is called a verbal phrase.
    • Participle: a verb form acting as an adjective.

    The running dog chased the fluttering moth. A present participle (like running or fluttering) describes a present condition; a past participle describes something that has happened:

    "The completely rotted tooth finally fell out of his mouth." The distinction can be important to the meaning of a sentence; there is a huge difference between a confusing student and a confused student.

    To sleep, perchance to dream. A present infinitive describes a present condition:"I like to sleep." The perfect infinitive describes a time earlier than that of the verb:"I would like to have won that game."

    Gerund: a verb form, ending in -ing, which acts as a noun.

    Running in the park after dark can be dangerous.

    Gerunds are frequently accompanied by other associated words making up agerund phrase ("running in the park after dark").

    Because gerunds and gerund phrases are nouns, they can be used in any way that a noun can be used:as subject:

    As subject:Being king can be dangerous for your health.

    As object of the verb: He didn't particularly like being king.

    As object of a preposition: He wrote a book about being king.


    Although a gerund and an infinitive will often have practically the same meaning ("Running in the park after dark can be dangerous" and "To run in the park after dark can be dangerous"), there can be a difference in meaning.

    Gerunds are used to describe an "actual, vivid, or fulfilled action" whereas infinitives are better used to describe "potential, hypothetical, or future events"

    This is especially true with three kinds of verbs:verbs of emotion, verbs of completion/incompletion, and verbs of remembering.
  10. Adverbs, Adverb clauses and adjective clauses
    Adverbs are words that modify a verb, an adjective and another verb.

    He drove slowly. — How did he drive? (M the verb)

    He drove a very fast car. — How fast was his car? (M an adjective)

    • She moved quite slowly down the aisle. — How slowly did she move?
    • (M another adverb)

    • Adverbs often tell when, where, why, or under what conditions something happens or happened. Adverbs frequently end in -ly; however, many words and phrases not ending in-ly serve an adverbial function and an -ly ending is not a guarantee that a word is an adverb.
    • The words lovely, lonely, motherly, friendly, neighborly, for instance, are adjectives:

    That lovely woman lives in a friendly neighborhood.

    If a group of words containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb (modifying the verb of a sentence), it is called an Adverb Clause:

    When this class is over, we're going to the movies.

    When a group of words not containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb, it is called an adverbial phrase. Prepositional phrases frequently have adverbial functions, telling place and time, modifying the verb:

    He went to the movies.

    She works on holidays.

    They lived in Canada during the war.

    Infinitive phrases can act as adverbs (usually telling you why)

    She hurried to the mainland to see her brother.

    The senator ran to catch the bus.

    Adjective Clause

    An adjective clause is a group of words that describes a person, place, thing, or idea. Adjective clauses usually begin with a relative pronoun, such as who, whom, whose, which, or that or relative adverbs such as when and where. Unlike a one-word adjective such as big or red an adjective clause appears right after the noun it modifies, not before.

    • Sally met a teacher who will be teaching composition this fall.
    • I called Ms. Watson, who lives in Atlanta.

    In example 1, the adjective clause who will be teaching composition this fall describes the noun teacher.

    In example 2, who lives in Atlanta describes the noun Ms. Watson.
  11. Misplaced/Dangling Modifiers and Squinting Modifier.
    Basic Principle:Modifiers are like teenagers:they fall in love with whatever they're next to. Make sure they're next to something they ought to modify!

    • Some modifiers, especially simple modifiers — only, just, nearly, barely — have a bad habit of slipping into the wrong place in a sentence.

    (In the sentence below, what does it mean to "barely kick" something?)

    • Confusion:
    • He barely kicked that ball twenty yards.

    • Repair Work:
    • He kicked that ball barely twenty yards.

    • The issue of the proper placement of "only" has long been argued among grammarians. Many careful writers will insist that "only" be placed immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. Thus:
    • "I only gave him three dollars" would be rewritten as "I gave him only three dollars." Some grammarians, however, have argued that such precision is not really necessary, that there is no danger of misreading "I only gave him three dollars" and that "only" can safely and naturally be placed between the subject and the verb.

    • When we begin a sentence with a modifying word, phrase, or clause, we must make sure the next thing that comes along can, in fact, be modified by that modifier.
    • When a modifier improperly modifies something, it is called a "dangling modifier."

    • This often happens with beginning participial phrases, making "dangling participles" an all too common phenomenon.
    • In the sentence below, we can't have a car changing its own oil.

    • Confusion:
    • Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the car seemed to run better.

    • Repair Work:
    • Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Fred found he could get much better gas mileage.

    A participial phrase followed by an Expletive Construction will often be a dangling participle — but the expletive construction is probably not a good idea anyway. This faulty sentence can be remedied by changing the participial phrase into a full-fledged clause with a subject and verb.

    • Confusion:
    • Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, there is an easy way to keep your car running smoothly.

    • Repair Work:
    • If we change the oil every 3,000 miles, we can keep our car running smoothly.

    Squinting Modifier:

    • A third problem in modifier placement is described as a "squinting modifier."
    • This is an unfortunate result of an adverb's ability to pop up almost anywhere in a sentence; structurally, the adverb may function fine, but its meaning can be obscure or ambiguous.

    For instance, in the sentence below, do the students seek advice frequently or can they frequently improve their grades by seeking advice?

    You can't tell from that sentence because the adverb often is "squinting" (you can't tell which way it's looking). Let's try placing the adverb elsewhere.

    • Confusion:
    • Students who seek their instructors' advice often can improve their grades.

    • Repair Work:
    • Student who often seek their instructors' advice can improve their grades.

    • Repair Work:
    • Students who seek their instructors' advice can often improve their grades.
  12. List of subordinators, coordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns, transition terms etc...
    Here is a list of subordinating conjunctions:

    Cause: As, Because, since, so that

    Condition: As if, assuming that, If, In case, Unless, When, Whether

    • Contrast: Although, Even though, Though
    • Place: Where, Wherever

    TIme: After, As soon as, Before, Since, Until, When, Whenever, While

    • Relative Pronouns:
    • Such as, who, whom, whose, which, or that.

    • Relative Adverbs:
    • When, Where.

    • Coordinating Conjunctions: (FANBOYS)
    • For, and, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So

    • Transitional Terms:
    • In addition:Again, Also, Besides, Further(more), Likewise, Moreover, Similarly,

    For example:For instance, In fact, In particular, Namely, Specifically

    On the other hand:However, Instead, Nevertheless, Nonetheless, On the contrary, Otherwise, Still

    As a result:Accordingly, Consequently, Subsequently, Therefore, Thus