Outstanding among the menu items were the tomato soup and the swordfish

loviii

Senior Member
russian
Greetings!

merriam-webster.com:
(1) Outstanding among the menu items were the tomato soup and the swordfish.
"Outstanding" is an adjective. I've never seen in the textbooks the examples of inversions beginning with adjectives. Is it normal?
Why can we do such an inversion here?

To totally embrace this topic, I supplemented (1) with the all remaining possible variants:
(2) Among the menu items outstanding were the tomato soup and the swordfish.
(3) Among the menu items were the tomato soup and the swordfish outstanding.
(4) The tomato soup and the swordfish were outstanding among the menu items.
(5) The tomato soup and the swordfish were among the menu items outstanding.

What variants from (2) to (5) are correct too?
What is the difference between (1) and the other correct variants?

Thanks!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The tomato soup and the swordfish (compound subject)
    were (linking verb)
    outstanding among the menu items (subject complement)

    (4) is the standard word order.
    (1) “fronts” the complement for emphasis, which necessitates subject/verb inversion.

    (3) and (5) are not idiomatic.
    (2) is the same as (1) but with the complement word order changed; it’s possible but unusual.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    A correct sentence with the same meaning is:
    (6)Among the menu items, the tomato soup and the swordfish were outstanding.

    For me, (2) is not the same as (1). In postpostion, "outstanding" as in "the menu items outstanding" takes the meaning "remaining unpaid, unresolved, etc.; not taken care of or solved". It needs a comma between "items" and "outstanding" to prevent that. Even then, it's an unusual word order.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps I didn’t put that well, but…

    The phrase “among the menu items” is an adjunct. You can delete it altogether and the sentence still makes sense. If you do that, 1 and 2 are identical.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Perhaps I didn’t put that well, but…

    The phrase “among the menu items” is an adjunct. You can delete it altogether and the sentence still makes sense. If you do that, 1 and 2 are identical.
    Perhaps I didn't put it well. It's not an adjunct without a comma.
    The gas and electric bills were outstanding. Ambiguous, the bills are amazing or past due.
    Among the bills outstanding were the gas and electric. Not ambiguous, the bills are past due.
    Among the bills, outstanding were the gas and electric. Ambiguous, but odd.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    No, 2 is ambiguous *with* a comma. Without a comma, it unambiguously means something different (as explained by Myridon).
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don’t agree. Without a comma, you can read it either as though it had one or as it stands — which makes it ambiguous. With a comma, it can only be read one way.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    With the comma, the *meaning* of the adjective is ambiguous.

    "Outstanding" in initial position (which it is in the original sentence and in the comma version) has two meanings, "notable" or "unresolved" - hence ambiguity. Usually the "notable" meaning would be assumed in the given sentence, because it makes more sense.

    In post-position as Myridon said in #3 it can only mean "unresolved" - without the comma, sentence 2 isn't readable (to me, at least) as having a sensible meaning. I can only interpret it as the menu items are unresolved.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I still disagree. The very fact that — because of the context under discussion — I initially overlooked the no-comma meaning pointed out by Myridon shows that it can be read two ways.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    (1) I've never seen in the textbooks the examples of inversions beginning with adjectives. Is it normal?
    Yes:
    "Best among the competitors were the team from Yakutsk."
    "Close on his heels came the dragon."
    "There was a lot of jewellery in the shop but most expensive were the diamonds."
     

    loviii

    Senior Member
    russian
    Are the next sentences grammatical with "was"?:
    Outstanding among the menu items was the tomato soup and the swordfish.
    Among the menu items, outstanding was the tomato soup and the swordfish.

    Thanks!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No! The subject is made up of two discrete items – it’s plural.

    And there’s no justification for the inversion in the 2nd example.

    See #2.
     
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