I am looking for the term for the sentence structure of the type "< verb > + < adverbial phrase >, < main clause >."

Examples of this pretty common structure are

  1. "Born in England, he moved to New Zealand when he was in his thirties." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bragge)
  2. "Trained in mathematics, he participated in the early twentieth century movement to mathematize economics." (http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2692.htm)
  3. "Believing the world to be round, he was certain that by sailing to the west, he could reach the Orient" (http://themutineer.org/america-amerigo-or-amerike/)

Are these just adverbial clauses at the start of a sentence, or is there a more specific term?

  • 2
    They are adjuncts, more specifically depictive adjuncts. They give descriptive information about the referent of "he".
    – BillJ
    Mar 6, 2017 at 17:29
  • 1
    These are called nominative absolutes, nominative in that they refer to the subject of the main clause, absolutes because they are not tied tightly to the grammatical structure of the main clause. For instance in your last example, Believing describes both Amerigo and his reason for certainty.
    – deadrat
    Mar 6, 2017 at 18:15
  • I wouldn't call them absolutes since they don't have subjects. Examples of an absolute non-finite clause would be "His hands gripping the door, he let out a volley of curses; "This done, she walked off without another word".
    – BillJ
    Mar 6, 2017 at 18:45
  • 1
    I agree with @deadrat, they're absolute constructions, except not nominative. The logical subject may be left understood when it is the same as as the subject of the main clause. "With Amerigo believing that the world was round, he was certain ..."
    – Greg Lee
    Apr 29, 2017 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


These formations are participial phrases, not clauses at all. The first two consist of a passive participle followed by an adverbial prepositional phrase, and the third is an active participle with an infinitive clause, "the world to be round," as a direct object.

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