0

Take this from Nick Cave's song 'Higgs Boson Blues':

She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia.

Is there a term for a sentence without a subject, or where the subject is implied from the previous sentence, like

And moves on to Amazonia.

This Quora (https://www.quora.com/In-formal-English-is-it-grammatically-correct-to-use-sentences-without-subjects-as-in-Went-home-late-Ate-biscuits) suggested that imperatives and exclamations often omit the subject, but the above sentence doesn't seem to fit as either of those, as it isn't an direction (like an imperative) or really exclaiming anything.

Is there a term for a sentence that has no subject, or implies the subject from the previous sentence?

  • 3
    Ellipsis applies to any skipped piece that does not suffer from the omission. Your two sentences are really one, broken for theatrics: She curses the queue at the Zulu — and moves on to Amazonia. – Yosef Baskin Jul 31 '17 at 3:19
  • 2
    Of the examples you give, She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia is what's called Conjunction Reduction. Went home late, ate biscuits is what's called Conversational Deletion. Those are only two kinds; there are lots more. – John Lawler Jul 31 '17 at 3:34
  • I'll not close-vote, as there is a fairly important point that has perhaps not been covered fully enough before, but this is a misquote as the original lyrics {at SongMeanings} are presented on two lines with the usual punctuation of no periods at the end of most lines (here, any lines) of the stanzas, and capitals at the start of each line (whether the start of an identifiable sentence or not). Your example is still usable. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 29 '17 at 11:25
0

"Sentence fragment", "dependent clause", and "phrase" apply, here. What you have there is improper punctuation of a single sentence.

A "clause" is a section that has subject, verb, and whatever objects are required. A "phrase" is any chunk that holds a distinct meaning as a group. A "sentence fragment" is a clump of words masquerading as a sentence but that can't actually fulfill the requirements. A "dependent clause" requires another clause to function.

Your example's first part can stand alone, but the second part is a "dependent clause" since it 'borrows' the subject of the former to function.

(In this case, the reason the dependent clause appears to be a sentence is that it has been punctuated the way it has. Thus, this isn't a grammatical error but typographical.)

  • It's not (in itself) an error at all according to many commentators. The judicious usage of fragments/crots is seen as a positive feature in some genres. Look up references here; this has been covered on several occasions. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '17 at 19:30
  • Avoidable confusion is an error. The question clearly indicates ambiguity that can be removed by following the classical conventions, and it isn't even a particularly bad example. – The Nate Sep 29 '17 at 6:13
  • No confusion about the meaning of the string arises from the structure of 'She curses the queue at the Zulu. And moves on to Amazonia.' It's as transparent as 'She curses the queue at the Zulu – and moves on to Amazonia.' And it seems extremely presumptuous to claim that there is a typographical error (ie that there has been a slip in some transcription process) without checking the original. In fact, OP is responsible for supplying an inaccurate version here. (I'm sure you're just misusing 'typographical error' for 'punctuation error', of course.) ... – Edwin Ashworth Sep 29 '17 at 11:00
  • Nordquist, at ThoughtCo, gives a reasoned approach to the acceptability of judiciously used sentence fragments in genres with far more exacting demands than pop-song lyrics. He includes examples of their use by authors such as Coetzee, Mencken and Dickens. And an Anglophone who has never used conversational deletion would be unique. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 29 '17 at 11:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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