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Constructions with the Participle





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There are four such constructions:

1) The objective – participle construction;

2) The subjective – participle construction;

3) The subjective – absolute participle construction;

4) The absolute participle construction.

1. The first construction is similar to the corresponding objective-infinitive construction. Cf. I saw John running away. vs. I saw John run away. The first construction represents the situation in progress and the second as completed. The second construction is similar to the corresponding subjective-infinitive construction. Cf. John was seen running away. vs. John was seen to run away. As with the first two constructions, the subjective-participle construction views the process in progress while the subjective-infinitive construction views the process as completed.

2. The subjective-absolute participle construction, traditionally called “the nominative absolute participial construction”, consists of a common-case noun or a pronoun in the nominative form and a participle, e.g. The elevator being out of order, everyone had to walk. Personal pronoun “subjects” of such a construction are more likely to occur in conversational English than in formal English (Marcella Frank, op. cit., 358), e.g. He being sick, we’ll have to do his work. If a personal pronoun is preceded by the preposition with, the pronoun is in objective form, e.g. With him being sick, we’ll have to do his work. The nominal position can be taken by the expletives (i.e. prop-words) it and there, e.g. It being Sunday, the stores were not open.There having been some question about the bookkeeper’s honesty, the company asked him to resign.

The participle can be elided in such constructions e.g. His book [being] now a best-seller, he felt pleased with the world.

3. The subjective-absolute participial construction functions in the sentence as an adverbial of time (e.g. Dinner [being] ready, the hostess asked her guests to be seated), cause (e.g. The children having been fed, their mother put them to bed), condition (e.g. A riot once begun, our small police force will be unable to handle it), manner (e.g. She sat in a corner, her hands over her eyes).



4. The absolute participle construction is a construction in which the participle is not connected with the sentence, just as the participle in the subjective absolute construction. Cf. Generally speaking, I don’t like cats. vs. Her mother being away, she has to do all the housework. The absolute participle construction should not be confused with the adverbial participle construction, e.g. Not knowing anyone in town, he felt very lonesome, where not knowing anyone in town is not absolute (i.e. independent of the sentence): the “subject” of the construction is the same as the subject of the sentence. The learner should use such constructions with care if he is to avoid the so-called ‘dangling’ participle, a participle which does not depend on any other individual element of the sentence, e.g. *Walking back, it snowed.

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