Absolutes show a special “how” relationship between two sentences. The two sentences are combined in a way that subordinates one to the other.
Mary was sitting at her desk. Her head was slightly lowered over a pile of chemistry notes.
Mary was sitting at her desk, her head slightly lowered over a pile of chemistry notes.
In order to construct an absolute, follow these steps:
1. Check to see if there is a “be” verb in the sentence you want to subordinate.
2. If there is a “be” verb, eliminate it and combine the sentences with a comma.
Julie accepted the award. Tears were streaming down her face.
Julie accepted the award, tears streaming down her face.
3. If the subjects are the same, delete the subject of the absolute as well. For example,
Julie accepted the award. Julie was overcome with emotion.
Julie accepted the award, overcome with emotion.
OR Overcome with emotion, Julie accepted the award.
4. If there is no “be” verb, change the main verb of the subordinating sentence into its -ing form. Then eliminate similar subjects and combine sentences with a comma.
Johnny ran after the bus. He waved his hands and whistled.
Johnny ran after the bus, waving his hands and whistling .
OR: Waving his hands and whistling, Johnny ran after the bus.
5. If there is a “possessive” relationship between the two sentences, use possessive pronouns (its his, their, etc.) to indicate the relationship between the subjects.
The cat confronted the burglar. It arched its back and bared its teeth.
The cat confronted the burglar, arching its back and baring its teeth.
The cat confronted the burglar. Its back was arched and teeth were bared.
The cat confronted the burglar, its back arched and teeth bared.
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