(with) a contented smile on her face

Lydia Qiu

Senior Member
Hi all!
Here's a line from Desperate Housewives:

She sighs with satisfaction, a contented smile on her face.

I'm not sure whether the complete sentence should be "She sighs with satisfaction, with a contented smile on her face."?

  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    Hi, Lydia. "With" would be fine in that sentence, but I don't think it is necessary. "A contented smile on her face" isn't an absolute phrase, but it is something very close to that.

    I don't think the terminology is particularly useful or helpful, but you might think about it as an example of ellipsis (omission of words). The position of the phrase makes its function clear, and the author apparently didn't think that the preposition "with" was necessary.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's often possible and sometimes necessary to use the preposition "with" to introduce an absolute contruction. If you do use it, the absolute construction becomes (strictly speaking) a prepositional phrase.

    In conversation we usually prefer a prepositional phrase over an absolute construction, which is rather literary. For this particular sentence, a repetition of the preposition would be bad style.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I agree that "with" is not necessary. I'm not even sure that the ellipsis is necessarily one of "with". It could easily be of "and there is".
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