I'm aware that imperative and interrogative constructions can take no subject as it's usually implied ("Look this way!!", or "Why look that way?"), but what about an indicative sentence like this one:

Running through the hallways frantically shoving food down my throat wondering if anyone nearby notices, stopping for a moment to say hello to the principal while wiping food from my mouth, realizing also my shirt was untucked, tucking it in, proceeding through the hall, down the stairs, out the door to the bus.

I've noticed these kinds of sentences in avant-garde literature, especially fiction, and was wondering if it's technically grammatically correct, or if these authors are slightly bending the rules.

I'm just realized that perhaps it could be considered an adverbial clause and thus not an indicative... but if that's the case then there's no verb it's modifying and therefore left dangling... Any thoughts??

  • 1
    avantgarde, surrealist, whatever they're called, they're taking liberties with the standard language. So they aren't following the usual rules. – Mitch Jun 11 '15 at 15:48
  • 1
    They're attempting to portray a "slice of life/experience" directly; "taking liberties with the standard language" is what good writers do, after all. Read a Harry Potter book and watch the author's spectacular use of gerunds to convey action. – John Lawler Jun 11 '15 at 17:23

The paragraph is written in the present progressive with an implied subject [I] and implied helping verb [am]. [I am] Running through the hallways.... This is not standard English, but it functions similarly to an imperative [You] Leave the room. The listener or reader supplies the missing, but obvious, words. A fair amount of recent fiction is written in the present tense, the theory being that the present tense is more vivid than the past tense. This paragraph violates standard English in order to further that vividness. See http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-pros-and-cons-of-writing-a-novel-in-present-tense Its merits are debatable.


I would see the mentioned cases of missing subjects as simple ellipsis.

Imperative - the "you" is understood as self-evident.

Why look that way? - Shortening of Why should we look that way?

A series of participle constructions: Put "I was" or "Imagine me" at the beginning of the sentence and it is complete.

Ellipsis (omission) is not an invention of writers. It occcurs in spoken language continuously.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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