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a. They interrogated Harry, exhausted.

b. They interrogated Harry, nervous.

c. They interrogated Harry, nervous because he thought they had found his gun.

d. They interrogated Harry, nervous and exhausted from the long flight.

Could any of these sentences be used if the clause in the end was supposed to refer to Harry?

Would you consider the clauses to be adjectival or adverbial?

Many thanks.

  • Speaking as a non-grammarian, these all feel more or less awkward to me. a) and b) both seem to suggest they rather than Harry were exhausted or nervous. c) less so because of the use of he; d) is not clear. None of them are good, clear statements. In all four cases the insertion of who was after the comma would make the meaning crystal clear. – Charl E Apr 1 '16 at 10:33
  • These all read to me like the clause following the comma is referring to "they". The third one seems like they were nervous because Harry thought they had found his gun, which cements how silly these sentences sound. – John Clifford Apr 1 '16 at 10:34
  • They are all pretty ambiguous, at best. – Hot Licks Apr 1 '16 at 13:05
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None of the above works, because the absolute phrases would attach naturally to the subject.

They arrived at Cairo, nervous and exhausted from the long flight.

There can be a problem with lighter absolute phrases also:

*/?The school party arrived at Cairo[,] sad.

The school party arrived at Cairo absolutely exhausted.

These absolute phrases are adjectival, describing the state of the referent (the referent of the subject).

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