Thursday, October 14, 2010

Participial Construction & Absolute Construction : Difference Explained

Every learner of English ought to know the difference between participial construction and absolute construction . These two constructions are the source of many an error often committed by English - users .

What is participial construction? It is a common type of sentence construction in English . It consists of a participial phrase or clause followed by the main clause. The participle may be present participle ( - ing) or past participle ( -ed or -en) . Look at these sentences :

*Singing loudly , Rama entered the room .
*Being popular , he will win the election hands down .
*Tired from work, Sita went to bed early.
*Having read the book , she returned it to the library.
*Disappointed in love he, decided to commit suicide .

The first part of the sentence is called a participial phrase . The verbs in participial phrases are in the participle forms , present or past, and their subjects (not mentioned) are always the same as the subjects in the main clauses . So , remember that if you put a noun or pronoun other than the real subject( that is, subject of the participial phrase) at the beginning of the main clause , it may result in confusion ! Look at this sentence :

Walking in the grass , a snake bit her .

What impression do you get? Was the snake walking? If you re-write the sentence as

Walking in the grass, she was bitten by a snake

the sentence would make sense .

Now, let me discuss Absolute Construction . This type of sentence construction makes use of absolute phrases . What is an absolute phrase? Well, it is different from participial phrases in that it explicitly mentions the subject. The subject is never mentioned in participial phrases . For example, "being rich" is a participial phrase , "he being rich" is an absolute phrase . Another difference between participial construction and absolute construction is that the subjects of absolute phrases are always different from those of their main clauses . For this reason the syntactic relation between the absolute phrase and the main clause is always a fragile one . Hence the name absolute construction . You know absolute means "independent" or "not related " etc . The absolute phrases serves to give additional details in a hurried manner, so to speak . Nonetheless, there is a strong semantic relation between the absolute phrase and the main clause . Look at these sentences :

*The party being over, the guests began to depart .
*Her husband being away, she felt lonely and miserable .
*All government offices will remain closed tomorrow, tomorrow being a holiday .
*The doctor having arrived, she looked happy and cheerful .

I hope you have understood the difference between absolute construction and participial construction . ,This will help you to avoid errors in future . .

Thank you for visiting!

I thank the readers for their comments .
A reader from Korea wants me to comment on the sentence :
While Caruso drinking the fresh apple cider, the farmer asked the famous singer his name
This sentence is not an example for absolute construction. Nor is it an example for participial construction. The omission of was before drinking is the cause of the error.The omission must have been due to oversight .

Prof. V.P.Rajappan

10 comments:

  1. A lucid distinction between participial and absolute constructions! Good examples too!

    Thank you, Professor Rajappan!

    [This area of grammar in misunderstanding (or many different understandings) abounds.]

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  2. I hope you can help me. I teach conversational English in Korea. One of my students just missed a question on an important test. The tester claims that the following sentence is correct:

    "While Caruso drinking the fresh apple cider, the farmer asked the famous singer his name."

    My co-teachers are claiming this is an absolute construction, but I just see it as crying out for "was drinking". Is this sentence correct, and if not, how can I prove this to my co-teachers and the tester? My feeling is that it hinges on the word "while". Thanks for you help and for this wonderful blog.

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  3. dear Mr. Rajappan,
    my name is Anggita from Indonesia and i'd like to ask you about the main verb in absolute construction. which one of these following sentences considered as the main clause? and would you please explain it in detail? thank you so much for helping me. i'm working on my thesis now. pls reply my comment.

    The sun has risen.
    Jacob gets up and starts doing activity.

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    Replies
    1. I AM SORRY I COULD NOT REPLY EARLIER.. I WISH TO TELL YOU THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE CLAUSE IN ABSOLUTE CONSTRUCTION . THE SENTENCE STARTS WITH AN ABSOLUTE PHRASE , NOT A CLAUSE .THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE PHRASE IN THE SENTENCE THAT YOU HAVE SENT
      .THE SENTENCE THAT YOU HAVE SENT FOR MY COMMENT IS A COMPOUND SENTENCE, BECAUSE IT CONTAINS TWO FINITE VERBS . THE SENTENCE COULD BE RE-PHRASED AS FOLLOWS IN ABSOLUTE CONSTRUCTION;
      THE SUN HAVING RISEN, JACOB GETS UP AND STARTS DOING ACTIVITIES
      HAVING RISEN IS AN ABSOLUTE PHRASE. IT STANDS DETACHED FROM .THE MAIN PART OF THE SENTENCE . HOPE I HAVE MADE MYSELF CLEAR.

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  4. No, it's not a compound sentence, which would have to have two distinct sets of subject and verb: "Jacob gets up, and he begins to exercise." This ("Jacob gets up and begins to exercise") is a simple sentence with a compound verb. Diagraming may be considered old-fashioned, but it is an important tool for those who struggle with sentence structure.

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  5. Is the comma in this example sentence correct?
    Disappointed in love he, decided to commit suicide .

    Shouldn't the comma be after the word love and before he?

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  6. thank you for pointing out the typing error . The comma , as you pointed out , should be after love and not he
    PROF V.P.RAJAPPAN

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  7. what are the rules behind leaving out "being" or "having been" in participial constructions? thanks much!

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  8. Dear Professor sir,
    It is nice and clear explanation with apt examples.
    Thank you for your contribution to the English teaching fraternity.

    ReplyDelete