Buried in the report was a suggestion [Adverbial fronting with inversion]

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tesoke

Senior Member
USA
Persian
Hi, during the following sentences from "Subways in America" from Economist, I think the author has changed the standard format of the red part. I think he should write "There was a suggestion buried in the report" instead of the red part. I do not know why he can do this and change it such that. Would you please explain it to me. Thanks.

IN LATE 2013, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) released a comprehensive report on its capital investment needs for the next two decades. Buried in the report was a suggestion that could dramatically alleviate overcrowding on subways across America: "..."
 
  • Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    First of all, it is entirely common, and entirely proper, for the sentence to be written in this way. Among the reasons a writer might choose this word order are a desire to increase or decrease emphasis on a word, or a desire to have certain words closer together because of the way the sentence would sound when read aloud.

    Here are some examples:
    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
    Engraved on the locket were the words "I Love You."
    Enclosed with the letter was a check for $10,000.

    Next, if you wanted to turn the original sentence around, then you would get "A suggestion was buried in the report that could ...(etc.)
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    If the adverbial (often a prepositional phrase) is fronted in a sentence, a subject-verb inversion might occur as is the case in the example from the Economist. It doesn't always happen though.

    Down the river floated the the dead body
    Down the river the body floated

    On the other side of the village lived a witch
    On the other side of the village a witch lived
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    Thank you so much, but I think that "Buried in the report" is not adverb and we cannot conclude it via your mentioned rule. Am I right or not?
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    'Buried in the report' indicates location and thus could reasonably be considered to be an adverbial. There are two possible inversions of "A suggestion that could . . . was buried in the report." One is "Buried in the report was a suggestion . . ." Another is "In the report was buried a suggestion . . ." A stylistic reason for the inversion is that the adjective clause after suggestion is relatively long and without inversion there is a wide separation between the subject and the verb.

    In the two examples offered by natkretep I prefer the versions where subject and verb are also inverted.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    Thank you. I agree that "In the report was buried a suggestion . . ." is right because "in the report" is adverb, but I am not convinced that "Buried in the report" can be adverb too. I searched some other webs for adverbs and read them, so I could not find any example that the main verb of the sentence was highlight as a part of adverb. Would you please explain more why you imagine the main verb as a part of adverb! Thanks for any help.
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Scientists create models to help them understand complex phenomena. Language is a very complex phnomenon, and linguists and grammarians create models to help them understand it. All models are a simplification. Words like 'adverb', 'adjective', 'verb', etc. are terms in a linguistic model. What one grammarian means by 'adverb' may be somewhat different from what another grammarian means. I don't know why natkretep used the term 'adverbial'; I know why I used it. I wanted to be vague. I don't know how any specific linguist defines the term 'adverbial', but because adverbs routinely specify time or place and because 'buried in the report' indicates place, it seems reasonable to me to say that it has adverbial characteristics. It may be that 'buried in the report' has a more precise name than adverbial. Whatever you call it, it can certainly be fronted.

    If you find somewhere a better analysis of this structure, please let us know. Remember, languages are very complex!
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    First of all, it is entirely common, and entirely proper, for the sentence to be written in this way. Among the reasons a writer might choose this word order are a desire to increase or decrease emphasis on a word, or a desire to have certain words closer together because of the way the sentence would sound when read aloud.

    Here are some examples:
    In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
    Engraved on the locket were the words "I Love You."
    Enclosed with the letter was a check for $10,000.

    Next, if you wanted to turn the original sentence around, then you would get "A suggestion was buried in the report that could ...(etc.)
    :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    Not to mention the famous poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Village Blacksmith.
    Under a spreading chestnut tree
    The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;​
    If I were you, I'd be very, very reluctant to try to "correct" articles appearing in a well-edited magazine, such as The Economist.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    Thank you so much. sdgraham! I do not want to "correct" these article. I know that they are well-edited, so I want to focus on them completely to learn more and more. Thanks.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I don't know why natkretep used the term 'adverbial'; I know why I used it.
    Yes, I said adverbial rather than adverb. An adverbial needn't contain an adverb - it just needs to function like an adverb, and answers the where, when, why and how questions. 'Buried in the report' answers the where question. I would say that this is a standard term in grammatical analysis.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    Thank you natkretep. I search again some webs about adverbial and I understood or misunderstood that adverbial is an adverb. So, would you please introduce a valid reference to read about them and their differences. I will appreciate you, if you do that. Thanks for any help.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    A common way of analysing clauses is to assign the phrases into one of 5 elements: SVOCA or SPOCA (subject, verb, object, complement, adverbial - verb is also known as predicator, adverbial is also known as adjunct). See for example this page on basic grammar from the University of Birmingham:
    Adjuncts are the least central part of the clause, as their name suggests. They describe circumstances and other contingent matters such as frequency, or even the attitude of the speaker to the truth content of what is being said. The term 'adjunct' is a gross over-simplification of the many elements which occur outside the main SPOC structure of a clause, but it will suffice at this stage. The two most common exponents of the adjunct slot are: a. an adverb, b. a prepositional phrase.
     
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