3

A few miles into the town, I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned.

I don't know if "a few miles into the town" is a verbless clause like this

(Being) a few miles into the town, I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned.

if it is just a normal adverb phrase like this

I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned a few miles into the town.

Because, when trying to use this prepositional phrase that starts with "into" without "a few miles", it sounds strange.

Into the town, I saw a beautiful building.<-It sounds strange, unless it is used as a verbless clause.

Now (being) into the town, I saw a beautiful building. <- Sounds better I think.

Which one is it? Is "a few miles into the town" a verbless clause, or an adverb phrase?

2
  • 2
    Yes, of course it is a verbless clause. It can be paraphrased as "When I was a few miles into the town". Its function is adjunct. – BillJ Jul 23 '16 at 12:13
  • 1
    The most likely source is the one implying the metaphor involved: (When/Once I had walked/gone/come) A few miles into the town, I saw ... The whole point of fronting it is to link the sentence up with previous sentences about the narrator's movement. – John Lawler Dec 24 '18 at 22:39
1

Whether or not "being" is included in the sentence, it is an adverbial phrase. Including "being" or any present participle in the formation of an adverbial phrase that introduces a sentence simply makes it a type of adverbial phrase that's called an "absolute phrase." In this context, it is not a clause because "being" isn't functioning as a verb but as a gerund. The phrase, whether it has the gerund or not, adverbially modifies the verb "saw" in the main clause. It describes on how "I saw."

8
  • OK. I forgot that verbless clause, or absolute phrase, is an adverb phrase. But what I was trying to find was if "being" is an obligatory part of it. Should I perceive it as "being" always there with a few miles into the town? – quetchalcoatle Jul 19 '16 at 4:04
  • "Being" isn't obligatory. It's not implied if you don't say it. You'd only perceive it there if it were explicitly stated. Now there may be relatively little difference in meaning, but that lack of difference doesn't mean that "being" is automatically implied even when it's not there. – Benjamin Harman Jul 19 '16 at 4:09
  • Thank you. So can it be used with "there expleitive"? Please consider the following: "A few miles into the town, there was a building." If I undo the inversion done to it, it becomes something like this: A few miles into the town, a building was there. But if I consider it an absolute phrase, it is: Being a few miles into the town, a building was there. To me, putting "being" in sounds stretched. For me to be able to use this phrase with "there expleitive, or inversion", it must be just pure adverb phrase, like "beside the lake, there was a building". No "being" is present with "beside.... – quetchalcoatle Jul 19 '16 at 4:13
  • ...the lake". So as you said there doesn't have to be being, a few miles into the town, there was a building should sound idiomatic, which I am not so sure about. Does a few miles into the town, there was a building sound idiomatic? – quetchalcoatle Jul 19 '16 at 4:15
  • You know that "being" isn't implied because if you move the modifier to the end of the sentence instead of placing it at the beginning, the grammar changes completely (e.g., "I saw a building a few miles from town" verses "I saw a building, being a few miles from town.") – Benjamin Harman Jul 19 '16 at 4:15
0

First, 'being' doesn't sound terribly natural. As @JohnLawler pointed out, the verb should be one of motion such as 'walk', 'go', 'come', etc. So if there has to be any participle that's omitted, it's not 'being' but any one of 'walking', 'going', 'coming', 'traveling', etc. But only 'being' can be omitted from the participial clause; therefore, 'a few miles into the town' cannot have originated from a participial clause.

Second, even if you could add 'being', I don't understand how being able to add 'being' would be a test for a verbless clause. Being able to add 'being' is a test for a predicative complement, and a predicative complement is not automatically a verbless clause.

Third, I think the right test for a verbless clause in this example should be whether you can add something like 'when' that is known to introduce a clause.

Make adjustments when [necessary].

Here, you could say 'necessary' is a verbless clause because whatever follows 'when' is a clause.

So does this work?

When [a few miles into the town], I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned.

Not to my ears.

Compare:

When [in the town], I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned.

Where I'd say 'in the town' is a verbless clause.

Fourth, 'a few miles into the town' clearly provides locative information of the verb 'saw'. That's why putting it as part of the main clause is not problematic:

I saw a beautiful building that was now abandoned, a few miles into the town.

Note the comma is necessary to mark the phrase as not belonging to the relative clause. So you wouldn't need a comma if you get rid of the relative clause.

I saw a beautiful building a few miles into the town.

This clearly shows that 'a few miles into the town' is part of the main clause and an adverbial phrase. It's not clear what the head is. If it's 'into', the adverbial phrase is a prepositional phrase. If it's 'a few miles', the phrase is a noun phrase. In either case, it is an adverbial phrase.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.