I've been interested recently in modifiers that modify not a specific grammatical unit--e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or phrases of each--but an entire sentence or clause. For example, see the example below for various phrases operating as modifiers,
- The gas tank exploded, sending shrapnel through the air. "Sending shrapnel through the air" here operates as an absolute phrase, per Can a participle phrase modify a clause?. This jives with Brian A. Garner's description of participial phrases in his The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation:
154 Participial phrases. A participial phrase is made up of a participle plus any closely associated word or words, such as modifiers or complements. It can be used (1) as an adjective to modify a noun ..., or (2) as an absolute phrase ....
Elliptical Prepositional Phrases
- In any event, call me when you arrive. "In any event" does not appear to modify any specific part of speech. Garner calls this a prepositional "elliptical phrase."
- Fortunately, we've had rain this week. "Fortunately" applies to the full clause, a structure Garner calls this a "sentence adverb."
- Are there other cases (other than absolute constructions, which I've not specifically included above) in which a modifier applies to an entire sentence/clause, rather than a specific syntactical element (i.e., noun/predicate)