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I wonder if the following sentence is grammatically correct.

Foobar is a novel, set in a scenic landscape of farmland and ancient woodland on the banks of the River Foo.

I suppose the word "set" is a verb without a subject noun, is it ? The usage of comma in the above clauses is not correct , is it ?

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Hi dan_l. As your question is currently worded, this seems like a proofreading question, i.e. you want us to check your sentence for errors. Please can you make it clear what your question is, as proofreading is off topic. –  Matt Эллен Mar 21 '12 at 9:47
I am trying to determine if those phrases form a complete sentence. My profession is programming and I am not a student trying to proofread some homework. I asked the above question after I recently read a similarly worded phrases online, and my gut feeling says the phrases are not grammatical. –  dan_l Mar 21 '12 at 10:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Set is indeed a verb, in this case the past participle of the verb to set. Compare it to the following:

  • Foobar is a novel, written in Python ..

where both set and written are passive constructions that can be expanded to:

  • Foobar is a novel that is set / written in ..

The comma is unnecessary if the words that follow define foobar, but needed if the words add extra information about foobar. In this case you probably do not need it.

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Thanks for pointing out that it is a past participle phrase. –  dan_l Mar 21 '12 at 10:16
Whether is set in should be considered an actual example of Passive is at least arguable. I'd simply consider it a stative predicate adjective, like be tired of. –  John Lawler Mar 21 '12 at 18:34
@John Lawler, Interesting point and not much space here to pursue it. The sentence I was bored contains what the CGEL calls an adjectival passive functioning as a predicative complement. This contrasts with I was bored by his grammar lectures containing a verbal passive, which hence can be reconstructed in the active voice: His grammar lectures bored me. The OP's sentence can be similarly reconstructed as The author sets his novel in etc. , hence my interpretation of the phrase as a (verbal) passive. –  Shoe Mar 21 '12 at 19:28
Well, most -ed predicate adjectives come originally from participles, many of them passive participles that often underwent the true, the blushful, Passive Alternation, but once they get separated from the verbal construction, the verbiness just leaches out of them until the suffix often falls away, like soft-shell(ed) crab. –  John Lawler Mar 21 '12 at 19:44

The presence or absence of a comma is purely a matter of style - it makes no difference to the question of whether or not the sentence is "grammatically correct".

If you want to be pedantic, you can just reassure yourself that if the comma is present, there's an implied repetition of "a novel" after it. Such ellipsis is perfectly normal.

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