Nominative absolute

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In English grammar, a nominative absolute is a free-standing (absolute) part of a sentence that describes or modifies the main subject and verb. It is usually at the beginning or end of the sentence, although it can also appear in the middle. Its parallel is the ablative absolute in Latin, or the genitive absolute in Greek.

One way to identify a nominative absolute is to add a verb; one can always create a sentence out of a nominative absolute by adding one verb (generally a form of to be).

  • Their manes flowing, the horses ran from the burning barn.
    Nominative absolute: Their manes flowing.
    With a verb added: Their manes were flowing.
  • Stephen, his mind taxed, searched frantically for a dictionary.
    Nominative absolute: his mind taxed
    With a verb added: His mind was taxed.

Similarly, one can break the absolute off, add a verb and make two sentences. For example, Stephen searched frantically for a dictionary. His mind was taxed.

A prominent example of a nominative absolute is the sentence composing the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:

  • A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


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