I recently learned about parenthetical expressions, and I just want to know if these following phrases are the ones.

I took notes, the elements of the story.

And in this one.

Victims of cancer or car accidents, once they heard my story, they hobbled and wheeled over to see me, they and their families, though none of them spoke English.

Just to be on the safe side, the phrases that are italicized are what I assume to be parenthetical phrases. "The elements of the story," and "They and their families."

In the first sentence, it seemed to me that the type of this parenthetical phrase is appositive. But I am not so sure about this. Is it appostive phrase or not?

And about the second sentence: I am just totally confused and not even sure if it is a parenthetical phrase or not. Also, I am not sure why it's "they" instead of "them". If you will tell me what it is, I will be deeply glad to receive the answer.

  • What do you mean by missed? – yaho Jul 29 '15 at 1:30
  • Perhaps the second example has two parenthetic phrases. One is appositive even if you were unsure. Are there any others? Adverbial for instance? – Hugh Jul 29 '15 at 1:44
  • Victims of cancer or car accidents - it's one for sure.What I am confused about is "they and their families". – yaho Jul 29 '15 at 2:05
  • @yaho I would describe these sentences as badly written, with various problems. Where did you find them? – aparente001 Jul 29 '15 at 2:39
  • In a book called Life of Pi by Yann Martel. – yaho Jul 29 '15 at 3:50

Parenthetical phrases are by definition incidental phrases, i.e. phrases which are redundant, unnecessary to the the construction. Not everything which follows a comma or is enclosed in two interpunction signs is a parenthetical...

The first example is just an apposition. The second is nothing: the whole me, they and their families is the object of the proposition.

  • For the latter, "they and their families" could refer to the people who hobbled, in which case it qualifies as a parenthetical phrase. – Lawrence Oct 26 '15 at 13:46
  • True, and that would also explain why it's they and not them; however for a "coordination" they.. they I'd expect a colon or semicolon. – Nemo Oct 26 '15 at 14:29

The first statement is definitely a parenthetical phrase. I think it's an appositive: notice that it has a noun phrase that modifies 'I took notes'; it, sometimes, can come in the middle of the sentence like "an experienced hiker" in this sentence: “If you, an experienced hiker, had trouble, how hard will it be for me?”

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