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Special Types of Phrases

In the previous section, phrases were classified according to the words that control them. Sometimes phrases are classified according to their function in a sentence.

An appositive phrase is a noun phrase that renames or re-identifies a noun or noun phrase that precedes it. A simple appositive can contain only one word (a noun), but appositive phrases are common. Appositives are always set off by commas.

  • That girl standing over there, the blond, looks just like my cousin.
  • Mr. Takeshi, a third-degree black belt, won the karate championship.
  • My favorite dessert, chocolate raspberry torte, takes a long time to prepare.
  • Her act for the talent show, walking across hot coals, went down in flames.

An absolute phrase does not directly modify a specific noun or pronoun. Instead, it modifies the entire sentence, adding information that would not otherwise be known. An absolute phrase usually contains a noun or pronoun, a participle, and any other words modifying them. Absolute phrases are usually set off by commas. (It is rare, but possible, for absolute phrases to be set off by dashes.)

  • Their hope fading as the hours passed, the rescuers searched the rubble for survivors.
  • The children, feet covered with mud, waited on the doorstep.
  • Carlito faced the angry crowd, his eyes flashing.

If the participle of the absolute phrase is any form of the verb to be, it is usually omitted.

  • Carlito faced the angry crowd, his expression grim. (his expression being grim)

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