• Absolute Phrases are essentially collapsed sentences. Instead of adding more information about a noun or a verb, absolute phrases modify an entire sentence, indicating something related happening at the exact same moment.

    His hands and knees bleeding from crawling, Michael triumphantly reached the summit.

    Mary backed the car out of the driveway, her mind repeatedly pouring over details for the upcoming interview.

     

    WRITING ABSOLUTE PHRASES

    The following is an easy tool to generate absolute phrases. Begin with a possessive pronoun (e.g., his, her, its, their) followed by a noun. Then write "was" or "were" followed by words that finish out an idea.

    You might have:

    His mind was racing uncontrollably.

    Her hair was fluttering in the wind.

    Its mouth was drooling.

    Their houses were on fire.

     

    Now, to create an absolute phrase, simply drop the was or were.

    His mind racing uncontrollably.

    Her hair fluttering in the wind.

    Its mouth drooling.

    Their houses on fire.

     

    Phrases are not sentences. To create meaning, the sentence must be attached to a RELATED sentence. Perhaps:

    His mind racing uncontrollably, Jim pulled over to the side of the road.

    She sped down the highway in her convertible, her hair fluttering in the wind.

    Its mouth drooling, the dog silently approached the rabbit.

    Their houses on fire, the residents sat dejectedly on the curb.

     

    PUNCTUATING ABSOLUTE PHRASES

    Always separate absolute phrases from the rest of the sentences with commas. The information contained in an absolute phrase is supplementary to that contained in the base sentence. Remember: The absolute phrase is a collapsed sentence whose information is related to (but not a part of) the base sentence.


    LOCATIONS

    The absolute phrase can appear in the same locations as participial phrases: (1.) The beginning of a sentence, (2.) the end of a sentence, and (3.) between the subject and verb. For example:

    His mind racing uncontrollably, Jim pulled over to the side of the road.

    Jim pulled over to the side of the road, his mind racing uncontrollably.

    Jim, his mind racing uncontrollably, pulled over to the side of the road.


    STRINGS

    Place several absolute phrases in succession to create a unique effect:

    His hands bloody, his knees raw, his hamstring throbbing, the marathon runner crawled to the finish line, determined that months of training would not end in failure.