The subject may be modified by a participle (with or without modifier or complement).
1. Smiling, the child shook his head.
2. My aunt, reassured, took up her book again.
3. The prisoner sank back exhausted.
4. Exasperated beyond endurance, the captain cut the rope.
5. John, obeying a sudden impulse, took to his heels.
6. Having broken one oar, Robert had to scull.
7. The natives, fearing captivity above all things, leaped into the river.
8. Albert left the room, looking rather sullen.
In the fourth example the participle is modified by an adverbial phrase.
In the fifth and sixth, it has an object.
In the seventh, it has both an object and a modifier.
In the eighth, it is followed by the predicate adjective sullen.
In analysis, the whole participial phrase (consisting of the participle and accompanying words) may be treated as an adjective phrase modifying the subject. But it is simpler to regard the participle as the modifier and then to enumerate its modifiers, etc., separately.
Thus, in the seventh example, the simple subject natives is modified by the participle fearing, which has for a complement captivity (the direct object) and is modified by the adverbial phrase above all things.
Note : A participle, though a modifier of the subject, has at the same time a peculiar relation to the predicate, because it may take the place of an adverbial clause. Thus, in the seventh example, fearing is practically equivalent to the clause because they feared, which, if substituted for the participle, would of course modify the predicate verb leaped. This dual office of the participle comes from its twofold nature as (1) an adjective and (2) a verb. In analyzing, we treat the participle as an adjective modifier of the noun to which it belongs. But its function as a substitute for an adverbial clause is an important means of securing variety in style.
Infinitives as Modifiers of The Subject
The subject may be modified by an infinitive.
1. Eagerness to learn was young Lincoln’s strongest passion.
2. Desire to travel made Taylor restless.
3. The wish to succeed prompted him to do his best.
4. Ability to write rapidly is a valuable accomplishment.
5. Howard’s unwillingness to desert a friend cost him his life.
In the fourth example, the infinitive has an adverbial modifier (rapidly); and in the fifth, it has a complement, its object (friend). In such instances, two methods of analysis are allowable, as in the case of participial phrases.
Possessives as Modifiers of The Subject
The subject may be modified by a substantive in the possessive case.
Such a substantive may be called a possessive modifier.
1. Napoleon’s tomb is in Paris.
2. A man’s house is his castle.
3. One’s taste in reading changes as one grows older.
4. A moment’s thought would have saved me.
5. The squirrel’s teeth grow rapidly.
6. The Indians’ camp was near the river.
7. His name is Alfred.
8. Your carriage has arrived.
In each of these examples, a substantive in the possessive case modifies the subject by limiting its meaning precisely as an adjective would do.
Note : An adjective phrase may often be substituted for a possessive. Thus, in the first example, instead of “Napoleon’s tomb" one may say “the tomb of Napoleon".
Appositives as Modifiers of The Subject
The subject may be modified by a substantive in apposition.
1. Meredith the carpenter lives in that house.
2. Herbert, our captain, has broken his leg.
3. The idol of the Aztecs, a grotesque image, was thrown down by the Spaniards.
4. Many books, both pamphlets and bound volumes, littered the table. [Here the subject (books) is modified by two appositives.]
Appositives often have modifiers of their own.
Thus carpenter is modified by the adjective the, captain by the possessive our, image by the adjectives a and grotesque.
In analyzing, the whole appositive phrase (consisting of the appositive and attached words) may be regarded as modifying the subject. It is as well, however, to treat the appositive as the modifier and then to enumerate the adjectives, etc., by which the appositive itself is modified.
A noun clause may be used as an appositive and so may be an adjective modifier.
The question whether Antonio was a citizen was settled in the affirmative. [Here the italicized clause is used as a noun in apposition with question.]
The statement that water freezes seems absurd to a native of the torrid zone. [The clause that water freezes is in apposition with statement.]
An adjective in the appositive position is often called an appositive adjective. “A sword, keen and bright, flashed from the soldier’s scabbard."