The narrator, in the quote, said that things turned out to be horrible.

According to the question I previously posted, this parenthetical prepositional phrase "in the quote" is made possible by whiz deletion. But when I applied whiz deletion to it, it turned out to be a disaster.

The narrator, who was in the quote, said that...

Surely, what I was trying to say was that narrator said something in the quote, not that narrator was PHYSICALLY in the quote.

Here is another example.

They, (who were) after so much thinking, finally decided.

Now it is just not right.

So my another interpretation was that there was an absolute phrase with "being" deleted, but it brought about the same result. You can see what I mean if you substitute who was/were for being.

So, why is it possible to use parenthetical prepositional phrase in the middle of sentence? Is there anything deleted?

  • 1
    You answered your first question yourself. "In the quote" modifies "said," not "narrator." "After so much thinking" is a nominative absolute.
    – deadrat
    Sep 6, 2015 at 22:09
  • 1
    Absolute constructions often have a participle, but it's not necessary. They just need to stand free of the rest of the sentence. Note that the phrase modifies the subject (telling us who decided -- the ones who thought a lot) and the verb (telling us when they decided). That's another clue. The integrated version would be "After they had thought so much, they decided."
    – deadrat
    Sep 6, 2015 at 22:26
  • 1
    Maybe it's "after thinking so much." But if you can substitute various participles -- indulging in, descending into, etc. -- I think it's hard to say there's a canonical deletion.
    – deadrat
    Sep 6, 2015 at 22:39
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    "After thinking so much" makes it more obvious (to me at least) that the gerund phrase is the object of the preposition, and the gerund phrase is more recognizable as a nominative absolute. When you encounter a reduced relative clause, you can say with some assurance what's been "reduced," i.e., what's missing. But in this construction I can think of any number of verb forms that might fit. This leads me to consider those as rephrasings, not the inevitable omission of a standard ellipsis. Sorry, but I don't think I'm making this any clearer.
    – deadrat
    Sep 6, 2015 at 23:38
  • 1
    I'm sorry I haven't made things clearer. Also, you're welcome, but my time is worth approximately what you paid for it. I learned grammar around the time that everybody agreed that we weren't speaking Old English anymore, and I think you'd want a text informed by current linguistics. You might ask a separate question here, wait for the snide comments about the off-topic nature of your request, apologize profusely in a comment and offer to take the discussion to chat. I'm sure some of the learned would be able to help.
    – deadrat
    Sep 7, 2015 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


The narrator, in the quote, said that things turned out to be horrible.
They, after so much thinking, finally decided.

There is, as you suggest, no deletion in these two cases.

I suspect you have been misled by the position of the two preposition phrases (in the quote and after so much thinking) after two nominals (narrator and they). That is the ordinary position for a PP which modifies a nominal, so if these two PP modified these two nominals that is where you would expect to find them. In that case many linguists would say that the two PP should be parsed as relative clauses reduced by Whiz-deletion.

But in fact these PP do not modify the nominals; as you yourself recognize, that analysis is a disaster. The PP are 'adverbial adjuncts' understood to modify either the entire clauses to which they are attached or the verbs which head those clauses (the difference is irrelevant to this discussion). This may be clearly seen from the fact that the PP may be moved to different positions without changing the fundamental meaning:

The narrator said in the quote that things turned out to be horrible.
In the quote the narrator said that things turned out to be horrible.

They finally, after so much thinking, decided.
After so much thinking they finally decided.
They finally decided, after so much thinking.

Where you put the adverbial depends in part on what you want to emphasize and in part on the surrounding context—for instance, you don't want to put in the quote after horrible, because that suggests that things turned out to be horrible in the quote rather than in the events the narrator was talking about!

  • Thank you! I finally understand. The solution was simple.
    – sooeithdk
    Sep 7, 2015 at 2:45

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