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I am a chinese student and one of my friend, a chinese, wrote sentences like this:

Just a little above me, he was fighting with all his might.

On the summit of the mountain, he cried with joy.

He was pretty certain that these sentences were correct but I am not so sure. I've heard sentences like His eyes bright, he talked vigorously or Her coat barely on her shoulder, she dashed out of her house, but I have never seen sentences like the ones my friend wrote, the ones with no subject in the front. Can anyone tell me the name of the sentences my friend wrote? And if possible, can you also tell me if the name of the sentences I wrote is verbless clause?

Thanks.

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  1. Just a little above me, he was fighting with all his might.

  2. On the summit of the mountain, he cried with joy.

These are sentences with Locative Adjuncts. A Locative Adjunct is an Adjunct (read "adverbial") which gives you more information about where something was or where it took place. Th majority of Locative Adjuncts in English are preposition phrases (this just means phrases headed by a preposition). These Locative Adjuncts have been preposed, moved to the beginning of the sentence.

In sentence (1) the Adjunct is headed by the preposition above. This preposition has a complement, the word me. It isn't the first word of the phrase because it is being modified by a measure phrase just a little.

In the second sentence the preposition phrase is headed by the preposition on. Its complement is the summit of the mountain.

Notice that in both cases these adjuncts could also go after the sentence, instead of before it. This is a common feature of proposition phrase Adjuncts, especially locative ones:

  1. He was fighting with all his might just a little above me.

  2. He cried with joy on the summit of the mountain.

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I think you may be looking for "nominative absolute," a noun (hence the term "nominative") phrase or clause that stands free (from that sense of the word "absolute") of the main sentence. If it's a clause, it will have a participle with a subject.

Your friend's sentences don't have nominative absolutes; they have introductory prepositional phrases. In the first "above me" modifies the verb "was fighting," telling us where the fight took place. In the second, "on the summit" likewise tells us where the crying took place. Notice that neither phrase contains a noun unconnected grammatically to the rest of the sentence.

We can convert the second example to an absolute:

The summit of the mountain towering above him, he cried with joy.

The nominative absolute isn't connected grammatically to any word in the main clause. Think of it as modifying the entire main clause.

  • I don't understand how the sentence you have highlighted is correct English. "The summit of the mountain towering above him," is a fragment, and in this case doesn't relate at all to "he cried with joy." – michael_timofeev Jul 25 '15 at 13:26
  • It's not a fragment. It doesn't stand by itself; it's a noun phrase attached to the main clause "he cried with joy." Why doesn't it relate to the sentence? Suppose it's a description of a man who has just rescued a friend on a mountain. Grammatically, it's not attached to any particular word in the main clause the way it would if you started the sentence with a preposition -- "With the summit of the mountain...." That's why it's called an absolute. – deadrat Jul 25 '15 at 20:29
  • @LittleEva Thank you. I think we're on a first-nym basis. No need for an honorific. – deadrat Jul 25 '15 at 20:30
  • @deadrat - why thank you, I'm honored and ... grateful, dead. – user98990 Jul 25 '15 at 20:32
  • @LittleEva As my daddy, Wharf, always said, "Keep on truckin'." – deadrat Jul 25 '15 at 20:35
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I think it important to analyse the meaning of a construct rather than to categorise it by formal naming. That said, I see the prepositional phrase "he was fighting ..." to be in apposition to "he". As such it tells us where he was when he was fighting. I cannot give you a name for the whole construct but I believe your friend has written two elegant and correct sentences.

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