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Absolute Clause

Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language
Tom McArthurTom McArthur

Absolute Clause. 

An adverbial clause that has its own subject, and has a participle as its verb or no verb at all: ‘The dinner having been prepared, I had time to take a nap before the guests arrived’. Here, the verb is the participle phrase having been prepared and the subject is the dinner. Contrast the adverbial participle clause in ‘Having prepared the dinner, I had time to take a nap’, where the subject of having prepared the dinner is understood to be identical with the main subject I. An absolute clause is not introduced by a subordinating conjunction: after having prepared the dinner and while preparing the dinner are not absolute clauses. The participle may end in -ing (trembling in ‘His voice trembling, he described what had happened’) or -ed (wasted in ‘Their money wasted on imprudent schemes, they could not expect any further help’). With some irregular verbs, the participle may not end in -ed: spent in ‘Their money spent on imprudent schemes, they could expect no further help.’ Absolute clauses may be without a verb, as in ‘The soldiers emerged from their hiding places, their hands high above their heads’, a corresponding participle clause being their hands held high above their heads. (The end of the previous sentence itself contains an absolute clause with the participle being as its verb.) Outside a few set phrases such as all being/going well, weather permitting, present company excluded/excepted, absolute clauses are infrequent and usually confined to formal written English.