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Participles replacing clauses

Why does it sound odd to say:
Sitting on the table, a bottle of beer promised refreshment.
while it is perfectly OK to say:
A bottle of beer sat on the table promising refreshment.
I'd be glad to get some comments from experienced speakers. Thanks

Comments

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited January 2018

    It isn't a question of grammar, Katiko. I think the oddness comes from at least these factors:

    1. The reader isn't expecting the sentence to be about an object such as a bottle.
    2. The PREDICATE promised refreshment isn't heavy enough.
    3. The new focus of attention a bottle of beer is in the middle of the sentence — which is the weakest place for introducing and highligting new information

    We could compensate for [1] by a context such as

    I looked around to see what the room had to offer. Sitting on the table, ...

    We could compensate for [2] by making it longer, for example

    Sitting on the table, a bottle of beer promised some welcome refreshment after what had been a long and wearying morning.

    We could compensate for [3] in one of two ways:

    • make a bottle of beer the TOPIC, as you did with
      A bottle of beer sat on the table promising refreshment.

    • give a bottle of beer what is called END FOCUS, putting it in the usual place for NEW INFORMATION.
      For example:
      Sitting on the table and promising refreshment was a bottle of beer.

    This second attempt would sound better with more WEIGHT, for example:

    Sitting on the table and promising refreshment was a half-litre sized, cool-looking bottle of beer.

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