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port : a place where ships may ride secure from storms - Definition of port by Merriam-Webster.

I wonder there are any differences from adjective placement(order) of following sentences.

  1. a place where ships may ride secure from storms. : Correct sentence.
  2. a place secure from storms where ships may ride.
  3. a secure from storms place where ships may ride.
  4. a secure place where ships may ride from storms.
  5. a place secure where ships may ride from storms.
  6. a place where ships secure from storms may ride .

I made these 5 sentences. 3, 4 and 5 sentences look weird but I'm not sure it's grammatically wrong or not. If the grammar is correct, is there any differences in usage?

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  • 1
    This is actually a fairly interesting question, despite whatever your downvoter was thinking.
    – tchrist
    Feb 11, 2017 at 16:31
  • Hahaha. Thank you but I don't care downvoters anymore. I just worry about being banned due to down votes. Haha.
    – Choe
    Feb 11, 2017 at 16:34

3 Answers 3

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  1. a place where ships may ride secure from storms.
  2. a place secure from storms where ships may ride.
  3. a secure from storms place where ships may ride.
  4. a secure place where ships may ride from storms.
  5. a place secure where ships may ride from storms.

Only 1. and 2. are grammatical.

Two matters are involved:

  • From storms is a complement of the adjective secure—we speak of being secure from this or that threat. Moreover, it cannot act as a complement of ride as used in this context. When we speak of a ship riding we are ordinarily speaking of its position on the surface of the water; motion is not entailed (a ship may ride at anchor), and if motion is involved it is not 'voluntary' on the part of the ship: a ship does not 'ride' the waves as a man 'rides' a horse.

    Semantically, then, 4. and 5. are excluded.

  • With some exceptions, adjectives precede their heads (the nominals they modify) which excludes 5. But there is an important exception: adjectivals with following modifiers or complements must follow their heads.

    Syntactically, then, 3. is excluded.

    The most common exception is participles; many of these routinely follow their heads—for example, the man chosen. Some linguists interpret these as reduced relative clauses, but I suspect the real cause is that such participles are frequently accompanied by following complements which would require postposition.

Both 1. and 2. are grammatical; but they do not mean the same thing.

  • In 1., it is the ships which are secure: secure from storms is a 'secondary complement' of ride which is attributed to its subject ships.

  • In 2., it is the place which is secure.

In this particular instance, which you use may make little difference to the ships; but it's easy enough to conceive a port where a storm leaves the ships unaffected but tears the roofs off all the buildings ashore!

ADDED:

  1. a place where ships secure from storms may ride

This is perfectly grammatical, but again it means something different from 1. (and 2.) Security now has nothing to do with the place: it's a restrictive adjunct describing the sorts of ships which may ride in the place. It implies that ships which cannot ride out a storm will not be permitted to enter the port!

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  • Wouldn't this stop being an exception if one posits a rule whereby “heavy” modifiers — so things like secure from storms, worth every penny, prepositional phrases, non-finite verb clauses (inf/ger-part), and varying sorts of finite dependent clauses – all fall to the right of their nominal, whereas “light” ones like determiners and adjectives fall to the left of their nominal?
    – tchrist
    Feb 11, 2017 at 17:39
  • 1
    @tchrist It's not just weight but distribution: a more than usually extended train of preceding adverbials will not force an adjective to the right of the nominal. Feb 11, 2017 at 17:55
  • I didn't understand this part ; [ secure from storms is a 'secondary complement' of ride which is attributed to its subject ships.] 'ride' is a verb so, as long as I know, the complement form should be adverb not adjective (secure is adjective).
    – Choe
    Feb 11, 2017 at 18:01
  • I add one more a question.
    – Choe
    Feb 11, 2017 at 18:11
  • 2
    @TINGCHOE No: securely is an adverb describing the manner in which the ships ride. It's hard to say what it might mean--perhaps something like "Ships feel secure when they are riding here" Feb 11, 2017 at 18:33
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  1. a place where ships may ride secure from storms.

  2. a place secure from storms where ships may ride.

  3. a secure from storms place where ships may ride.

  4. a secure place where ships may ride from storms.

  5. a place secure where ships may ride from storms.

In 1, the action or verb of riding is qualified by the adverbial phrase "secure from storms"

In 2, "secure from storms" is an adjectival phrase describing the noun place

2 and 3 are equivalent though some may consider 3 incorrect

4 is semantically incorrect since "ride from storms" doesn't convey the intended meaning

5 seems to be an archaic or poetic variation of 4 and equally incorrect semantically

So 1 and 2 both seem to be correct choices depending on the meaning you want to convey.

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  • secure is adjective. Is it possible for adjective to be used adverbial clause?
    – Choe
    Feb 11, 2017 at 18:07
  • Traditional 19th-century dependency grammar was at a loss to account for the secure in 1., so it threw up its hands and called it an 'adverbial' modifying ride. Contemporary grammar has a more nuanced understanding and calls it a (secondary) complement or predicate of ride predicated of the subject. In any case, there's no 'clause' there; definitions of clause vary, but at the very least it requires a verb. Feb 11, 2017 at 18:07
  • @StoneyB But "secure from storms" does qualify the verb ride in 1. So it is adverbial at least in function if not morphologically.
    – Valandil
    Feb 11, 2017 at 18:12
  • @TINGCHOE Yes it is an adverbial phrase since it modifies the verb "ride"
    – Valandil
    Feb 11, 2017 at 18:15
  • I think not. It doesn't qualify the verb, it predicates a quality of the ships when they are riding. The syntactic role is often called secondary predicate; I prefer the term secondary complement because that acknowledges the syntactic relationship between the adjectival and the verb (the 'predicator'). Feb 11, 2017 at 18:22
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(2):

a place secure from storms where ships may ride.

This is fine and would be used as (1), except for the notion that ships may ride there to secure from storms is not clear. "a place secure from storms" is here, and "ships may ride" is here ,but not that ships ride there to secure from storms.
(3):

a secure from storms place where ships may ride.

This is unusual usage, not completely incorrect, but liable to cause some difficulty in understanding for the reader. It is not the best way to convey the thoughts. The article "a" is proper to "place" but is separated from "place". (4):

a secure place where ships may ride from storms.

ships do not "ride from storms" in the meaning of (1): "ships ride secure from storms" according to (1).
(5):

a place secure where ships may ride from storms.

putting the adjective (secure) after the word it modifies (place) is usually limited to artful writing, such as poetry or verse. There is also the issue of "ride from storms", as in (4).

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