English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In books written in the nineteenth century, you can come across sentences like this (quoting from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary):

A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it [the pilgrim] to Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to the dictates of his conscience.

Another well-known writer in whose works I'm certain I found this kind of usage is Jane Austen.

I'm not sure I understand this usage.

share|improve this question
This is (close to?) the nominative absolute construction, as in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_absolute. What is slightly old-fashioned is the usage of the participle, not of because, I'd say. – Mariano Jun 26 '12 at 5:28

I see it as a simple case of omission. The longer sentence would in fact be:

A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because (he was) not permitted to sing psalms...

It makes sense too and not old-fashioned, archaic or anything. Because the writer is using a V+ing Participial Phrase ("leaving Europe"), it's better to just add another P.P. Participial Phrase ("not permitted").

share|improve this answer
«because of not being permitted», too – Mariano Jun 26 '12 at 5:29
Cool Elf, may I suggest you use the Blockquote when answering (the large " on the toolbar). It avoids the horizontal scrollbar when the line is long. – Brian Hooper Jun 26 '12 at 5:34
So does that mean I can't use this in a sentence like this: "I couldn't make it because ill." – Kaiser Octavius Jun 26 '12 at 5:55
@Brian, thanks for telling me that. I'll try it next time – Cool Elf Jun 26 '12 at 7:15
@Kaiser, "because" is a Conjunction so it can't be followed by a Noun - or an Adjective like in your example – Cool Elf Jun 26 '12 at 7:17

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.