Nominative Absolutes

When I was in school, oh those many years ago, I was a grammar buff. When my high school Senior English teacher would quiz us on grammatical constructions, she never could stump me. One day she  read a sentence and asked us to name  the grammatical construction is at the beginning of a sentence. It was similar to this:

My time up, I headed home. (‘My time up’ is a shortened version of ‘My time was up, so I headed home. Or–My time was up, and I went home.’)

Everyone in the class was dumbfounded. I raised my hand, and ventured, “a nominative absolute.” I got the banana, or actually, she gave me a ruler as a prize. It is a rarely used construction. I happened to know it, even though we hadn’t studied it in English class, because it is similar to the Latin ablative absolute. Having three years of Latin under my belt, I took a chance that this English phrase was similar. Luckily, It was.

Here’s another nominative absolute:

The mystery resisting an easy solution, we gave up. (“The mystery resisting an easy solution’ is a nominative absolute. The sentence could be written as follows:

The mystery resisted an easy solution. We gave up.  Or- Because the mystery resisted an easy solution, we gave up.

Nominative absolutes come in handy when you are concerned about the number of words in a piece you are writing. They can help shorten it. Of course, they need to be used sparingly. They also add variety to any writing. Whether or not you choose to incorporate nominative absolutes in your writing, you can at least recognize them when you see them in your reading.

You can also wow your friends that you know this grammatical construction. It could be something new for you to share.

Have fun with grammar.