1

He sensed that his life was in danger, and so overhanging his mind, always was the dreadful notion that he may meet his end very soon.

In the bolded part of the above example, is fronting used correctly?

0

3 Answers 3

1

"Overhanging his mind" is the inverted complement of "dreadful notion ..", and "always" is adverbial. There should be another comma after "always" to bracket the one that precedes "always" (or don't use commas since "always" is clearly adverbial). "Always" seems inappropriate -- did he ALWAYS feel in danger?

2
  • Yes as implied he did always feel in danger and the word "always" is being used only for additional effect, however what is baffling me is whether this sort of inversion or fronting makes any sense.
    – user79773
    Sep 9, 2016 at 17:04
  • I wouldn't call it fronting. Inversion is allowed whenever the subject and complement are of different enough syntax types so that we know which way the verb goes regardless of subject/complement order ("fat is the boy", etc.). PS: with just the one comma before "always", it looks like "always" is being forced to be the inverted complement and "overhanging" the adverbial.
    – AmI
    Sep 9, 2016 at 18:07
1

This isn't so much a matter of correctness as of style. Let's look at the unpunctuated text:

He sensed that his life was in danger and so overhanging his mind, always was the dreadful notion that he may meet his end very soon.

The intent is to have a compound predicate:

life was... and was the notion....

but the conjunction is so far from the second verb, that your reader is in danger of parsing the sentence as a compound predicate complement in bold above:

in danger and so overhanging

This is sometimes called a garden path, leading your reader astray, to something that you didn't mean (and in this case that makes no sense). You've attempted to direct the reader to the intended meaning by using a comma:

He sensed that his life was in danger, and so overhanging his mind always....,

Now you've created a second garden path with the meaning of so as thus, leading to the interpretation

He sensed that his life was in danger, and thus ever-occupying his mind was the notion that he might soon die.

You've attempted to forestall this interpretation with a second comma:

He sensed that his life was in danger, and so overhanging his mind, always was the dreadful notion that he may meet his end very soon.

This forces the notion to be eternal, not the overhanging. This is to get to what I presume is the intended meaning:

He sensed that his life was in danger, and it weighed on his mind so much that he always entertained the notion that he would soon die.

The problems isn't that your syntax doesn't make sense; it makes too many senses.

0

Yes. This can also (more precisely) be called locative inversion. Also, the sentence makes perfect sense to me. When the predicate of a clause is a copula verb (i.e., be) or certain posture verbs (stand, sit), and the copula complement is a phrase of some sort with locative meaning, the order of the subject and the copula complement can be inverted.

The fact that it's mid-sentence is irrelevant to the grammatical correctness. The sentence contains two coordinated clauses, so you can immediately ignore the first one and look at the second one to see that it's grammatical.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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