In some languages there are absolute constructions like the Genitive Absolute in Greek:

  • Καὶ ἤδη ὥρας πολλῆς γενομένης προσελθόντες αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἔλεγον ὅτι ἔρημός ἐστιν ὁ τόπος καὶ ἤδη ὥρα πολλή·

Where the genitive phrase (in bold) is grammatically independent from the rest of the sentence and is translated as a dependent clause ("When it had already become late...").

In English as well there are absolute constructions like, "All things being equal," and so on.

Is there a name for a construction that is actually a part of the main clause but is nevertheless seemingly unaffected by the grammatical rules?

I am thinking of instances of compound subjects and objects that do not get inflected (in some speakers' speech) for case, such as:

  • My dad got tickets to the premiere of the new Star Wars tickets for he and I! Early birthday gift!!
  • Please stop asking what happened out of respect for she and I. Just know it’s over.
  • Ask not for whom it tolls. It tolls for he and she.
  • Nothing’s gonna change not for we and you.

In all of these cases (all of which were recorded from statements made online) it looks like the compound objects are unaffected by the prepositions that proceed them.

However, it seems unlikely that the speakers of these sentences would say, "My dad got tickets to the premiere for he" or "Please stop asking out of respect for I" or "Nothing's gonna change for we."

It looks like it's a function of being in the compound object that renders the constituent parts impervious to the requirements of the sentence structure. In this way, it's like an absolute but is still nevertheless part of the main clause.

Is there a term for such a thing?

  • 2
    This doesn’t seem related to absolute constructions to me. It’s simply that, to people who say and write it this way, conjunct pronouns act as complex noun phrases rather than pronouns. Since phrases do not inflect for case in English, it makes sense that the unmarked form is used. You’ll even occasionally hear someone treat an infinitival clause (with subject!) as a phrase and forego case marking, as in Bob Marley’s “is it feasible, I wanna know now, for I to knock some more?”. I’m not aware of a term for it, but there’s nothing absolute about it as far as I can see. Feb 17 '19 at 1:29
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    (As an aside, though I think this is a good question which is entirely on topic here, I think it would be at least an equally good fit, if not a better fit, on Linguistics.) Feb 17 '19 at 1:32
  • Janus Bahs Jacquet, thank you for your response. I agree that it's not absolute, but does seem somewhat impervious. And thanks for the suggestion about Linguistics—I'll share it there as well. Feb 17 '19 at 1:37
  • An absolute can be defined as a non-finite clause that has a subject, and serves as a supplement. It has no syntactic link to the main clause. For example "His voice trembling with fear, he frantically called out for help". "All things being equal" fits the definition, but your other examples don't.
    – BillJ
    Feb 17 '19 at 14:40

Interesting question. You are right to point out that the term ‘absolute’ is borrowed from the grammarians of Greek and Latin.

Strictly, as by implication you acknowledge, the phenomenon is a matter of case. In both languages the participles inflect by case as well as number. And, as a rule, the case and number of a participle in those languages is determined by the role played in the clause by the noun with which it agrees.

He killed his victim with his sword already steeped in the blood of dozens. (the participle of the participial phrase qualifies ‘sword’ - the instrument - and would be in the dative in Greek or ablative in Latin.)

She did her best to clean off the keyboard, smeared by her daughter’s sticky fingers. (here the participle agrees with the object of the main verb, so that the participle would usually be accusative in both ancient languages).

But sometimes participial phrase is thrown in, where the participle is unattached to any noun in the main clause. In such circumstances, it is put into the case both languages use to indicate cause or origin: genitive in Greek and ablative in Latin. Most of the time, these genitive or ablative participle phrases are related to the main sentence either temporally (and so are replaceable by a temporal clause) or causally (and so replaceable by a causal clause). Sometimes too the relation can be conditional.

So, my personal view is that there is no true analogy to the classical use of absolutes, and probably entered the language from clumsy translations by past centuries of children forced to learn Latin in school. But there they are and there they stay.

My answer to your question is that the odd use of pronoun cases is not in any sense related to absolutes.

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