1. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Dangling mod or sentence frag?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Chaos Inc., Aug 12, 2014.

    "He held his spear firmly in both hands as it finally emerged, head lowered and ears folded back."

    Or this is a case of passive tense... It sounds fine, I think, but I don't think it's grammatically right.

    I could do "With (its) head lowered and ears folded back its snout quivered violently and foamy saliva dripped from its maul." In this case I have two "its" or one if I drop the first one. None of these I'm happy with. Halp!
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is no such thing as 'passive tense'. There's only passive voice, which is basically a type of sentence in which, what would be an object of an active sentence, becomes the subject in the passive sentence. So

    "He held his spear firmly in both hands as it finally emerged, head lowered and ears folded back."

    An active voice "He held his spear" ('he' being a subject and 'spear' being an object, 'held' is a verb) in the passive becomes "The spear was held firmly by him". Here, the former object 'spear' becomes a subject because the verb 'held' here refers to the 'spear' and not to 'him'. "As it finally emerged" is again, an active sentence, it - emerged. This can't be converted into a passive because there is no object in this sentence. If you said "as it finally emerged from the cave" you could theoretically convert it into an extremely clumsy passive by saying 'the cave was emerged from by him' sounds awful, right?

    Anyway, this has nothing to do with the passive, your sentence is grammatically correct.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm having trouble with that last clause? - head lowered ears folded back - it sounds like it's connected with describing the spear not the He. Maybe just invert the order - With head lowered and ears folded back, he held his spear firmly in both hands as it finally emerged. - example.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @peachalulu : I understood that 'it' refers to some beast he's hunting, as in "He held his spear firmly in both hands as it (the beast) finally emerged, head lowered and ears folded back." I assumed that was the context. But I might have misunderstood?
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Lol - I never know with fantasy - emerging spears, beastial he's. That's what I get for attempting grammar out of context. I'm over my head.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Like @jazzabel, I'm not sure what the "it" refers to in the original. @Chaos Inc., can you give us more context?
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's no passive voice. I read the sentence as implying that the spear emerged, and that the spear has a head and ears. But the sentence isn't actually stating that, and it might be just fine with more context.

    I believe that this sentence, however, is saying that the snout has a head and ears--your subject appears to be the snout, and everything else is referring to that.

    One corrected version could be:

    With its head lowered and ears folded back, and its snout quivering violently, the critter roared a challenge, foamy saliva dripping from its maw.

    This sentence has a clear subject ("the critter", which could be "it"), and it's a subject that can have head, ears, snout, and so on.

    However, a simpler rewrite is to lose the "with the", which I think is what threw you off:

    Its head was lowered with ears folded back, its snout quivered violently, and foamy saliva dripped from its maw.
     
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  8. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    The mental image I see is my MC tightly gripping the spear at the moment the wolf or "it" emerges. The wolf is described as "it" was the last "it" mentioned. I'm struggling because I do have two subjects and because I know exactly what I mean, but I'm not saying it clearly.

    So now this opens up another question. While not grammatically correct does the context allow a writer evade normal rules? There were context concerns that seem to matter, however, I thought the context needs to be clear within the sentence itself. If the reader knew the second "it" referred to the wolf chasing him, is the original sentence (in the OP) a good one?

    The second line from the OP was missing the information from the original couple lines. It would actually read. "He held his spear firmly in both hands as it(the wolf) finally emerged. With (its) head lowered and ears folded back its snout quivered violently and foamy saliva dripped from its maul."

    In the above two lines; should I replace the first "it" with "the wolf" because "it" refers to the spear? Also, the "its" in the second line, does it clearly refer to the wolf or still the spear? Also part two, is the second "its" necessary or should I remove it?
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just an aside: "Maul" is not the word you're looking for here. A maul is a heavy hammer used for driving wedges, etc. Is "maw" the word you want?
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's grammatically correct, but stylistically a little confusing. The end clause, which is a modifier of the subject (He), is too far removed from the subject by not only the direct object (his spear) but also by a prepositional clause and some other doodads. The raised eyebrow you felt that made you post this question is your most telling clue. If you question it, your reader will trip on it.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    No it isn't grammatically correct. The pronoun, it, refers to the closest preceding noun that is also an 'it'. In this case, 'it' refers to the spear (since hands would be 'them' or some other plural pronoun).

    That's why the sentence doesn't sound right to @peachalulu and me.

    Split the sentence and name the 'it' even if you just recently said, wolf. You can always call it a beast to break up the repetition.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first sentence is not technically incorrect, and with sufficiently clear context, it could be OK.

    The second sentence is technically incorrect and confusing; there is no value to the incorrect structure of this specific sentence. Of course that's my opinion, but I don't think that you'll find a lot of disagreement.
     
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  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why does this evoke avision of Wrey clinging to a high crossbar while some poor unfortunate's brain explodes down below?
     
  14. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Because I can't spell and even when I see several corrections they all look the same to me!
     
  15. A.J. Pruitt
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    I have feeling that the sentence is connected with a previous sentence/s, so to get a clear meaning of the sentence in question, if may help to have read the sentence that precedes the sentence/s in question.

    My take on the sentence; ......the hunter was holding his spear with both hands as a beast emerged from behind something...........
     
  16. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    This is the paragraph I'm wanting to go with.

    After running into a small forest glen at night being chased by a "wolf".

    "Dryden turned around and whipped the spear at his pursuer but there was nothing there. He backed away from the trees with his spear firmly between him and the darkness. The snap of fragile wood and rush of thick fur through the trees surrounded him and he frantically looked about for the source. Then all went silent and it finally emerged. With its head lowered and ears folded back, its snout quivered violently and foamy saliva dripped from its maw."

    Sound right?
     
  17. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    I apologize if someone has already said this, but the simple way to fix this sentence is to add the missing subject to your phrase (the pronoun "it" has no subject, which is why the sentence is so confusing) rather than cutting your independent clause from the rest of the sentence. The repair above does not fix the problem, because the last sentence still has no subject for the pronoun to relate to.

    "He held his spear firmly in both hands as the creature finally emerged, head lowered and ears folded back."

    You could add "with its head lowered" if you wanted to be perfectly clear, and you could take out the conjunction "and" at the end and use a comma in its place.
     

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