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Can a sentence have no verb except in what would otherwise be its noun phrase?

e.g.

  • The car in the street I walk down.

I'm guessing that "the street I walk down" would be the noun phrase, and it contains a verb (walk). So I wondered whether that's sufficient for a sentence. I'm guessing not.

I think I mean (tortuously)

  • I walk down the street the car is in.

What if the elided verb is more obvious?

  • The bird in the air I breath.

That seems to be the case here (birds always seem to fly in the air)

  • I breath the air the bird flies in.

So I think I'm asking about

  1. verb ellipsis (the car [is] in), and
  2. whether I can put objects first, both before its subject and verb (OBJECT I walk down), and
  3. so that the object with an elided verb is before its subject (the car in SUBJECT).

3 could be an example of

poetic hyperbaton "Answer gave he none", and "What say You?"

2 could be an example of an elided 'but'

OSV... as a contrast with the conjunction but: "Rome I shall see!" and "Oranges I may hate; (but)* Apples I shall eat!".

I'm not sure these can be used together, or when verb ellipsis is reasonable.

In summary, are "The bird in the air I breath" or "I breath the air the bird in" complete sentences, and might either say the same as "I breath the air the bird flies in"?

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    No. Those aren’t sentences. They are just noun phrases. Try dropping the nonessential elements of the sentence to get to its essence. For example “The big red balloon flying over the church with the steeple just radioed for help” can be reduced to “The balloon radioed” In your “sentence” you get “The bird” and “The car” – Jim Apr 19 at 5:24
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    You have made efforts both on Meta and here to ensure that you ask a good question and explain your line of thought. I think your question boils down to: Are 'The car in the street I walk down' or 'The bird in the air I breath/I breath the air the bird in' sentences?. But the section you include after your words So I think I'm asking about muddies the waters a bit for me. – Shoe Apr 19 at 8:10
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    I'll leave you to decide whether to edit it out. It may be helpful to other potential answerers. But perhaps you could end your post with an In summary paragraph (e.g, In summary: Are 'The car in the street I walk down', 'The bird in the air I breath', and 'I breath the air the bird in' complete sentences?) to refocus on the main point of your post. – Shoe Apr 19 at 8:19
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    You do realise that in "The car in the street [I walk down]",the bracketed element is a relative clause? – BillJ Apr 19 at 8:42
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    I don't see where there is an elided verb in "The bird in the air I breath". – BillJ Apr 19 at 8:46
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Neither The bird in the air I breathe nor I breathe the air the bird in is a complete sentence.

The bird in the air I breathe is a postmodified noun phrase which cannot stand alone as a sentence. It can function as the subject of a sentence, for example:

  • The bird in the air I breathe is a bluejay

or as the object:

  • My sister likes the bird in the air I breathe.

The example sentences sound odd because the words the bird in the air I breathe are unlikely in any sensible context I can think of. But they are now complete sentences with a subject in italics and a predicate (verb) in bold.

I breathe the air the bird in is not a correct sentence. It contains a subject I, and predicate verb breathe together with an object the air. The object is postmodified by a finite restrictive relative clause (reduced by omitting the relative pronoun that/which). But since each finite clause must have a verb, and the verb is missing here, the 'sentence' is ungrammatical.

An example of a corrected version of the relative clause (adding the missing verb) is:

  • I breathe the air the bird flies in.
  • could you edit in the fragments i used, rather than your (presumably illustrative) take on them? – user3293056 Apr 19 at 8:55
  • You will need to specify which fragments you mean. – Shoe Apr 19 at 8:58
  • think you've done it now anyway, let me read... yeah you have. so you defninitely can't use verb ellipsis to interpret 'the bird in [the air I breath]'? – user3293056 Apr 19 at 8:59
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    The car in the street I walk down is exactly the same structure as The bird in the air I breathe, namely a postmodified noun phrase that can be the subject or object of a sentence. If a subject, then just a main verb is needed to complete the sentence. If an object, then both a subject and main verb are needed. And, you are right, 'the bird [in the air I breathe]' is simply a noun phrase that tells us nothing about the verb that is needed to complete the sentence.. – Shoe Apr 19 at 9:14

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