Topic 5: The Verbless Clause

Outline of Lesson

  • Objectives
  • Required Reading
  • Introduction
  • The Term Verbless Clause
  • Structure of the Verbless Clause
  • Features of the Verbless Clause
  • Summary
  • Self-study Questions

Objectives

By the end of the lesson, the student will be able to:

a)explain a verbless clause. (NTS 2c)

  1. b) identify the structure of verbless clauses in context. (NTS 3e)
  2. c) construct at least five sentences using verbless

d)state the features of verbless clauses.

Required Reading

  • Downing, A. (2014). English Grammar: A University Course. (3rd edn.) London & New York: Routledge. Pages 12-13.

Note: You can please find the reading material in the e-library on Google Drive and  on Moodle

Introduction

  • In Week 4, we discussed finite and non-finite clauses. Please have a quick review on the difference between finite and non-finite clauses before you proceed.
  • This week’s lesson focuses on the verbless clause (i.e. clauses with elliptical elements, esp. the verbal group).

Verbless Clause

  • A verbless clause is a clause which lacks a verb (and often a subject also). The omitted verb is typically a form of be and is recoverable from the situational or linguistic context. The  verb element is not present but implied. An example is the  underlined clause in the sentence below:

1.Whether right or wrong, he always comes off worst in  arguments.

Here, the omitted verb can be recovered, as in:

Whether he is right or  wrong

Book your tickets well in advance, whenever possible.

The verb can be recovered, as in: whenever it is  possible.

Exercise:

Recover the omitted verb in the underlined verbless clause  below:

While at University of Cape Coast, he was active in  the society.

  • Verbless clauses can sometimes be treated as reduction of non-finite clauses. Consider the examples below:

1.Too nervous to reply, he stared at the floor.

In (1), the verbless clause, “too nervous to reply” can be  expanded into the non-finite clause Being too nervous to reply

2.In police grips, the students learnt their lessons.

In (2), the verbless clause, “In police grips” can be expanded  into the non-finite clause Being in police grips ….

Sometimes the verbless clause can consist of just one lexical  item. The other elements are ellipted. See (3) and (4) below.  The corresponding full clauses are in brackets:

3.Amazed, he left the scene. (Being amazed …)

4.Hungry, Mary ate the food with joy. (Being hungry…, or As  she was hungry …)

Structure of the Verbless Clause

From the syntactic point of view, verbless clauses fall into two

classes, namely: (1) independent and (2) dependent clauses.

  • Independent verbless clauses can stand on their own and make meaning. See the clauses highlighted in red below:

1)Now  to the business. (Now, let’s get down to the  business/Now let’s return to the business)

2)Really delicious! (It is really delicious/it tastes really  delicious)

From the syntactic point of view, verbless clauses fall into two

classes, namely: (1) independent and (2) dependent clauses.

  • Independent verbless clauses can stand on their own and make meaning. See the clauses highlighted in red below:

1)Now  to the business. (Now, let’s get down to the  business/Now let’s return to the business)

2)Really delicious! (It is really delicious/it tastes really  delicious)

Features of the Verbless Clause

  • It lacks a verbal element completely.
  • Its meaning is dependent on the implied verbal element, which is often “be”.
  • It has the meaning of a clause and can be analysed into one or more clausal elements such as Subject, Complement, Adjunct etc.
  • It can be formed with one lexical item only.
  • Note that the verbless clause can still be analysed into clausal elements. For example, each of the verbless clauses below are introduced by a conjunction and consist of only Adjunct

1.If in doubt …

2.Whenever possible …

3.Once inside the building …

  • Can you identify the Adjuncts? Please write down your answers!

Summary

  • The English verbless clause is a clause whose verbal element (and often its Subject too) are ellipted.
  • The ellipted verb element is typically a form of be and is recoverable from the situational or linguistic context.
  • Verbless clauses can sometimes be treated as reduction of non-finite clauses.
  • Verbless clauses can be analysed into clausal elements.

Self-Study Questions

1.Underline the verbless clauses in the following sentences:

i.He learnt a great deal about electricity while in the army.

ii.Taken daily, vitamin pills can improve your health.

iii.Not very happy with the results, he said nothing to Ama.

iv.You have to come to our party next Sunday, whether busy or not.

2.Construct two (2) sentences and underline the verbless clause in  each.

3.With examples, explain why the verbless clause is considered a  clause although it has no verbal element in its structure.

  • Rewrite the highlighted verbless clauses into full clauses and identify their clausal elements:

1.Afraid, he ran away from the crime scene.

2.His duty completed, he had three months’ leave.

3.The long journey over, we relaxed in the warm  sunshine.

4.Whether here or not, his application will have to be  considered.

 

END

Stay safe

 

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