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I wanted to see if anyone could give an opinion on an absolute phrase at the end of a compound sentence. I've seen two definitions for an absolute phrase: 1. qualifies the entire sentence 2. Qualifies the whole independent clause

Here is an example:

Ticket exchanges for the same game are allowed, and ticket salespersons can work with the venue to reschedule group ticket packages, provided there is no increase in compensation.

What I want is for the last phrase "provided there is..." to qualify the whole sentence (both ticket exchanges and rescheduling group ticket packages), but I'm afraid that some could misinterpret that last phrase as qualifying only the preceding clause.

I'm a bit ambivalent, because the definition I've known for years is that an absolute phrase qualifies the entire sentence (which would include both independent clauses of a compound sentence), but I don't think that definition takes into account the ambiguity that may arise with a compound sentence.

Thank you Steven

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    Absolute constructions are normally defined formally/syntactically, rather than with regard to scope. But 'provided there is no increase in compensation' is not analysed as an absolute clause. ('provided that' is usually analysed as compound conjunction.) Here, there is certainly ambiguity. Some might argue that tinkering with the commas would disambiguate, but re-ordering is safer. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 '16 at 23:53
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    I'd sub "salespersons" for "salespeople". – GoldenGremlin Aug 18 '16 at 23:57
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    Provided there is no increase in compensation, ticket exchanges for the same game are allowed, and ticket salespeople can work with the venue to reschedule group ticket packages. Stuff at the beginning usually has widest scope. I wouldn't call it an absolute phrase, either; it's a reduced adverbial clause. – John Lawler Aug 19 '16 at 0:20
  • The 'An absolute phrase qualifies the entire sentence' you have doubtless met is essentially a sloppy way of saying 'An absolute phrase should not be seen as qualifying just the nearest noun group'. Contrast 'John, the boy with the long sandy hair blowing in the breeze, is racing across the sand.' (better as a single sentence) with 'John, his long sandy hair blowing in the breeze, is racing across the sand.' Two sentences works fine for the second example here ( 'John is racing across the sand. His long sandy hair is blowing in the breeze.') ... – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '16 at 16:32
  • The question here is rather about the ambiguity accompanying 'and' in sentences like 'A will be at Ashton and B will be at Bakewell provided the buses are still running on Thursday.' I'm pretty sure that this has been covered here before. A very similar ambiguity is dealt with in the Preposition ambiguity and comma placement thread. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '16 at 16:35
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Ticket exchanges for the same game are allowed, and ticket salespersons can work with the venue to reschedule group ticket packages, provided there is no increase in compensation.

Prelimimary point: 'asolutes' are not phrases, but clauses that contain their own subject and whose verb is non-finite. The provided constituent is not a clause at all, but a preposition phrase, and hence not an absolute.

It is in fact a conditional adjunct; it expresses the condition under which the main part of the clause holds; in this case, the 'main' part happens to comprise two independent clauses. The salient interpretation is that both the ticket exchanges and the rescheduling are dependent on the condition being fulfilled.

Conditionals are commonly PP's headed by if, but also by such other prepositions as "provided", "given", and "unless".

  • Have you got some serial downvoter following you around? Nice answer. +1 from me. – Araucaria Sep 27 '16 at 13:01
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You are right that the sentence is ambiguous. Here is one way to solve the problem:

Ticket exchanges for the same game are allowed, and ticket salespersons can work with the venue to reschedule group ticket packages, provided in both cases that there is no increase in compensation.

It sounds a bit legalistic, but that's the price you pay.

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