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I am reading a grammar book. There is an example sentence I can't understand. There is a special pattern where a complement occurs with an action verb, not a linking verb.

The related example sentence is this:

He walked away a free man.

What's the meaning of the example sentence? "Walked away"?

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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

"Walk away" can mean simply "to leave a place".

In that sentence, I'd say that the meaning is closer to "to achieve or win something" (In the end, he achieved the status of a free man). It's hard to tell for sure out of context though.

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I agree with the first sentence, but not the second. I don't find an implication of winning or achieving, simply of being free to walk away. –  Colin Fine Dec 20 '10 at 18:05
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I agree. "To walk away" is often used as a metaphor for leaving a situation behind without ties, bonds or conditions. In this sense "to walk" is also US slang for being released from custody without charge (implying that the subject may be guilty nonetheless.) –  PyroTyger Jan 6 '11 at 15:33
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@PyroTyger, in that usage, it would be more simply put "he walked." By adding "away" it makes the meaning more vague until we know what was walked away from. So, I don't think "to walk" and "to walk away" are the same sense, but I do believe "to walk" and "to walk away a free man" are much closer in meaning. –  tajmo Jun 29 '11 at 22:03
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"He" was able to "walk away" from something (perhaps a gaol), because he is now "free" (either he had served his sentence, acquitted, or pardoned).

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I didn't think "gaol" was actually in common usage o.O –  tenfour Apr 1 '11 at 21:55
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The American spelling of "gaol" is "jail". –  GEdgar Jun 29 '11 at 20:51
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It's an interesting transitive usage of go (and similar motion words). It's more common for them to take an adjective ("Nobody leaves my table hungry", "Don't go away mad, just go away") Having a predicate nominative, as in the example, is more poetic and so, less common.

The literal interpretation of "he walked away a free man” is just "he walked away and thereafter was a free man”, but the connotation is one of causality or anti-causality; that is, because or despite of whatever he was walking away from, he was a free man.

He left the casino a wealthy man

I said goodbye a sadder but wiser person.

It's said of litigation that you go in a pig and come out a sausage

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To clarify the sentence, I would re-phrase it "He walked away [from someplace] a free man."

That "someplace" might be a jail, the army, or some institution that made him "not free."

Around the time of the American Civil War (1861-65), it could even mean a (slave) plantation.

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