8 Types of Parenthetical Phrases
A parenthetical phrase, sometimes called simply a parenthetical, is one that is not essential to the framing sentence. In the preceding sentence, the phrase “sometimes called simply a parenthetical” is itself a parenthetical because the segments of the sentence that precede and follow it can be attached to form a complete sentence without it: “A parenthetical phrase is one that is not essential to the framing sentence.”
However, a parenthetical can also begin or end a sentence, and though only these three syntactical variations exist, a parenthetical can be categorized as serving one of eight functions. Here is a roster of the types, with a sentence that demonstrates each one:
1. Absolute phrase: An absolute phrase, which contains at least a noun or a pronoun and a participle but not a true verb, modifies the entire sentence: “Jane stayed up late, writing her report.” (The phrase may also begin the sentence.)
2. Appositive: In this case, the parenthetical is an appositive, a noun or noun phrase placed in opposition to another such construction that defines or modifies the first: “If you, an experienced hiker, had trouble, how hard will it be for me?”
3. Aside: An aside is a statement that is subordinated to the sentence, often denoting an ingratiating or apologetic attitude. It might also be placed within parentheses to more clearly identify it as a trivial comment or between em dashes to signal its sudden and/or unexpected impact: “Her friend, I hesitate to say, has betrayed her.”
4. Free modifier: A free modifier is an unspecialized interruption of additional information: “I stood up and, brushing off my pants, continued along my way.”
5. Interjection: An interjection imparts information about the writer’s (or speaker’s) state of mind, as in this sentence in which the interjection implies impatience or indignation: “Well, what do you have to say for yourself?
6. Introductory phrase: This element preceding the main statement provides context for the sentence: “While I was on vacation, I had an epiphany.”
7. Resumptive modifier: A resumptive modifier includes within its additional detail repetition of an adjective from the sentence: “She was exhausted, more exhausted than she had ever been before.”
8. Summative modifier: A summative modifier is one that summarizes an idea expressed in the sentence and then adds information about it: “We headed toward the summit, a goal we had anticipated accomplishing all week.”
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