A skier since childhood, she won many races.

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turner

New Member
United States, English
I often see sentences constructed like this one:

A skier since childhood, she won many races.

Such sentences look wrong to me, but I can't put my finger on the reason. I want to rewrite the sentence above like so:

She won many races, having skied since childhood.

Or:

She was a skier since childhood, and won many races.

Is the original construction grammatically correct? If not, why not?

Thanks

--Ben
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    She, who had been a skier since childhood, won many races.
    I am sure you will be content with this one.
    Now omit a few words, as often happens in English.

    She, a skier since childhood, won many races.
    That sounds fine to me as well.
    Try changing the order a little, as the order of words in an English sentence is often flexible.

    A skier since childhood, she won many races.
    There we are :)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Still here :)
    Does anyone know if this is a cleft or pseudo-cleft sentence?
    I think it is neither. A reference on cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences.

    In your second version of the sentence, it is clear that "a skier since childhood" is in *apposition to "she". It renames "she", and, in fact, could replace "she" as the subject of a slightly awkward sentence:
    A skier since childhood won many races.​

    In the title version, the appositive phrase "a skier since childhood" is placed in front of the subject.

    There may be a name for this kind of sentence too, but I don't know it.

    (*Wiki on apposition.)
     

    turner

    New Member
    United States, English
    Cagey, I think you're right, it's apposition. But the Wiki page you cited seems to contain an error. It provides this example of apposition:

    Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror of Persia, was one of the most successful military commanders of the ancient world.

    Which corresponds to panjandrum's recasting of the sentence that concerned me:

    She, a skier since childhood, won many races.

    So far so good. The Wiki page also distinguishes between restrictive and non-restrictive appositives, wherein non-restrictive appositives are not crucial to the meaning of the sentence. "A skier since childhood" is a non-restrictive appositive; we could say "She won many races" without losing anything crucial. The Wiki goes on to say "a non-restrictive appositive is always surrounded by commas." Uh-oh. This is true in pandandrum's sentence, but in the original there's only one comma. Is it possible that some rule we have not yet identified dictates that the original sentence is incorrect unless recast? Or is the Wiki page wrong (wouldn't be the first time)?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Don't panic :)

    Moving the appositive clause to the beginning of the sentence and separating it with a single comma is entirely consistent with your rules. This is a non-restrictive, a descriptive appositive. The Wiki is correct within limits. When the appositive clause can appear at the beginning of the sentence (as in this case) it would be silly to surround it with commas.
    The Wiki should really say, to be truly general, that the non-restrictive appositive is always separated from the rest of the sentence by commas (one or more as necessary).

    In this case, we have carefully separated the appositive clause from the rest of the sentence. As the appositive appears at the beginning of the sentence, only one comma is needed.

    Look at these colour-coded versions. The appositive clause is red.

    She, a skier since childhood, won many races.

    A skier since childhood, she won many races.

    And look, in each case the appositive clause is distinctly separated by comma(s) from the rest of the sentence.
     

    turner

    New Member
    United States, English
    Agreed! Upon further investigation I see that the erroneous Wiki sentence has a footnote that cites a Princeton web page that contains this sentence about non-restrictive appositives:

    They are not essential to the meaning of the sentence and must be preceded or set off by commas.

    I trust that you and Princeton got it right. I edited the Wiki accordingly.

    Thanks again.

    --Ben
     
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