From the book 100 year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared " over land didn't seem much easier" :

The above sentence seems wrong to me . As I learned, over land doesn't look like a noun and should not be placed for the subject position . Or is the sentence reversed? Or is it just typical English expression? Would you explain the usage of the words to me? Thanks alot in advance :)

  • where are the (opening) closing quotes - have they gone on holiday? – JMP Jun 7 '17 at 4:39
  • Oops . Back from the holiday ~~ – user51561 Jun 7 '17 at 4:43
  • "doesn't look noun and should not be placed for the subject position". It seems like you have far worse grammar than the sentence you quote. – Barmar Jun 7 '17 at 5:28
  • What is the context of the sentence? If there was a previous sentence describing a sea voyage, this sentence is simply eliding that part because it's understood. "over land" is short for "traveling over land". – Barmar Jun 7 '17 at 5:30
  • The passage does follow a reference to a sea voyage, so as @Barmar said above. Here's the full quote: "Over land didn’t seem much easier. Northward into Siberia where it really was cold was no solution. Nor was going westward into China." From Jonas Jonasson, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. (google is your friend.) – Robin Hamilton Jun 7 '17 at 5:46

Going "over land" versus going "by sea" also has its perils. "Going" or any other term that would convert this into a conventional sentence isn't there. "over land" is a preposition with an object that functions as a subject phrase in this informal, fast-moving account. "Over land" is contrasted with traveling by sea.

What remained was Southward . . .

Over all it seems to me to be a reasonable sentence in the style of the writer.

  • Confused at the first time but now I got it . Thanks alot :) – user51561 Jun 7 '17 at 13:53

CalifJim at English Forums has valuable advice on the issue of 'may prepositional phrases be used as subjects [/objects] in sentences?'

for you to meet the king [would be impossible]

[uses] a for ... to ... clause. for is considered a complementizer in that context (according to some analytical methods), not a preposition.

But you can make a prepositional phrase a 'sort of' subject by pulling it to the beginning. The resulting sentences are 'pretty lame', however, and not all grammarians will likely agree that these phrases are true subjects, since the sentences can be analyzed as something like cleft transformations of an underlying sentence with a different 'true' subject.

In the office is where you'll find him. [You'll find him in the office.]

Before the war was when they met. [They met before the war.]

With great care was how they proceeded. [They proceeded with great care.]

So 'Over land didn't seem much easier.' shouldn't cause many knee-jerk reactions in conversational style, but in formal writing one might like to add 'Going / Journeying'. In this example, even the 'straightened' form might be considered to benefit from the addition of the ing-form: It didn't seem much easier going over land.

  • Your detailed information seemed much helpful :) thanks million ~ – user51561 Jun 7 '17 at 13:51

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