1. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    The SUBJECT always receives the verb? Even at the end of a sentence?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by eclipsenow, Aug 31, 2012.

    Hi all,
    I was just reading about "Prepositional phrases" from Mark Tredinnick's classic Little Green Grammar Book. I have to admit to being a slow reader of Grammar books, and need a break after a few chapters to read something more fun.

    Anyway, on Page 71 (of the Large Print edition: no idea why I got the LARGE print edition when I ordered the LITTLE Green Grammar book from Book Depository! :( :redface:) Mark writes:
    I'm confused. What's the subject in this sentence? Isn't it the birds? The birds roost under the eaves. The birds do something to the eaves: they roost there. Doesn't that make the birds the subject and the eaves the object?
    HEEEEELP! I don't even understand my own language, let alone how to become a great children's book author! (It's my great delusion that I might one day earn a little money doing this: if I ever make 1/10th of 1% of J.K Rowling, I'd be a happy happy man! :) )
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    looks to me like the author of that book needs to study a grade school grammar textbook...

    first of all, that's not a sentence, it's only a fragment... just two prepositional phrases stuck together, making no sense on their own...

    and, no, 'birds' is not the subject... there isn't one... there's no predicate, either... the phrases only specify 'where' something that's not stated is located...

    one would assume something like, 'It was dry and cozy there.' preceded it... but in that case, those two phrases should have formed the latter part of the sentence...

    his final sin [in this instance, anyway] is leaving out the comma after 'eaves'...
     
  3. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    mammamaia, you are better than a grammar book :-D
     
  4. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Are you sure it didn't say: "Under the eaves is where the birds roost."? Because that would be correct, the prep phrase is the subject and the sentence is complete.

    Could've been a very unfortunate typo.
     
  5. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    I am so sorry! Of course it was a typo.

    "Under the eaves is where the birds roost."
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you still have trouble with parsing it? As you say, the birds are doing something -- roosting -- but if you want to talk about that you make the birds the subject and roosting the verb: "The birds roost under the eaves". But in the sentence you have, "under the eaves" is a place, "where the birds roost" is a place, and the verb "is" tells you that they're the same place. The notion of "subject" gets a bit muddy when "is" is used in this way, because both noun phrases refer to the same thing (that's what the sentence is telling you) and they can be swapped without changing meaning (but beware of traps where the meaning of "is" isn't quite the same as in this case: "God is love" might or might not mean the same as "love is God", depending on how you interpret it).

    The usual approach is to call whichever comes first ("under the eaves") the subject and whichever comes second ("where the birds roost") the subject complement (not the object).
     
  7. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Thanks Digitig, that's very helpful and has put a few things in context for me. Cheers!
     

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