I usually either accept or work around Word's grammar suggestions (I hate having red/blue lines in my documents) but this particular suggestion has me stumped. The sentence is "Striding forward with purpose, she bit her lip and suppressed a shiver." Word insists that this is a comma splice, but "Striding forward with purpose." would be a sentence fragment due to the lack of subject, right? Am I being an idiot?


How strange: I tried it in Word, and it found nothing to grumble about.

It's not a comma splice. The non-finite participial clause "Striding forward with purpose" is a supplementary adjunct. Most non-finite clauses have no overt subject, and yours is no exception, but we understand them as having subjects. In your example, the subject is retrievable by looking at the subject of the matrix clause. It then becomes clear that the subject is "she"; we understand that it was "she" who was striding forward with purpose.

Supplements like the one in your example are usually set of with a comma (or commas) so there’s nothing at all wrong with your sentence.

  • @Benjamin Harman Not so! It is undisputedly a non-finite participial clause. It has a verb: "STRIDING" which heads the clause, and the verb even has a manner adjunct forward with purpose modifying it. The subject "she" is obtained from the matrix clause. Non-finite clauses are very common in English. – BillJ Jan 11 '16 at 17:17
  • @Benjamin Harman Further, the clause doesn't modify anything; it's a supplementary adjunct set off from the rest of the clause by a comma, and a slight pause in speech. Only integrated adjuncts modify verbs or VPs. – BillJ Jan 11 '16 at 17:17
  • @Benjamin Harman As I said, the OP's example has a verb: "STRIDING". A participle is a verb form. It also has a COVERT subject "She". There's a mountain of information on the Net about non-finite clauses. Here's a link to one of them: link Scroll down a little and you'll see the section headed 'Non-finite clauses'. They even give a similar example to the one here. ("Playing on computers, they whiled the day away. (a participial clause, using a present participle)". – BillJ Jan 12 '16 at 8:35
  • @Benjamin Harman They are all Mickey Mouse websites, so of course they don't go into such matters as non-finite clauses. And there's nothing wrong with the Wiki article; it's written by leading grammarians. Here are links to two genuinely authoritative sources, the first is UCL (University College London), authored by Prof Bas Aarts, and the other is the Cambridge Dictionary: link; link. Read and learn some serious grammar! – BillJ Jan 12 '16 at 14:15
  • @Benjamin Harman Btw, it is only in trad grammar (and juvenile grammar websites) that the non-finite clauses are called phrases. Most (if not all) serious grammarians and linguists now call them clauses. – BillJ Jan 12 '16 at 14:26

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