comma before predicative adjective: He looks at her, happy.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by azraelrol, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. azraelrol New Member

    Mexican Spanish
    I have this doubt. I'm not quite sure so I will use an example.
    If I write something like "he look at her happy" happy being and adjective that modifies the subject "he". Where would be the best place to place such adjective? I've been told that after the verb you must only write adverbs that modify such verb. I though maybe putting a comma could fix it "he looks at her, happy" turning "happy" into some kind of clause. I'm not sure, so if anyone could tell me which could be the right way, I would be really grateful. Thank you.
  2. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think many people might be unhappy with your sentence! ;) This is because you want happy to modify he rather than her. The modifier should normally be next to the noun phrase that it modifies. So you might write:

    Bewildered, he looked quizzically at her.

    (I've changed your adjective from happy to bewildered because happy on its own sounds a little strange.) And yes, the comma is necessary there.

    Having said that, I have to say that in speech, people do break this rule about the modifier being close to the noun phrase. You might hear English speakers say:

    He looked at her, happy at last.

    and want to describe the man as being happy. (And others will complain that it looks as if it is the woman who is happy.)
  3. azraelrol New Member

    Mexican Spanish
    Thank you.
  4. azraelrol New Member

    Mexican Spanish
    Well a related doubt. What happens with a verb without object, let's say "smile". "he smiles happy". This is less ambiguous but it's still having a adjective after a verb. Should it be "happy, he smiles"? I'm not a native speaker but it sounds weird to me (and a little bit Yodaish). "He smiles, happy"? Thank you.
  5. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I don't quite like happy on its own. I'll use bewildered.

    Bewildered, he frowned. (Sounds OK to me. Not something I would say - but I might write it in a story, for example.)
    He frowned, bewildered. (Sounds plausible, but some people won't like this.)

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