KISS Level 5.6 - Delayed Subjects
"Delayed Subjects and
Sentences" simply denote sentences that have a placebo subject (almost
always "it") with the meaningful subject delayed until later in the sentence.
It is true that he was late.
That he was late is true.
Sometimes it may make more sense to consider the
sentence, rather than the subject to be delayed, as in
It was Bob who was playing baseball in his
Bob was playing baseball in his back yard.
In cases like this, delaying the sentence puts more
emphasis on the question of who was playing.
the delayed subject slides into the delayed sentence such that either explanation
can be considered acceptable. Consider:
It was in the seventh year of these hopeless
peregrinations, in the dawn of a similar springtime to that in which his
wife had died, [that
he came at last one night to the vicinity of this self-same patch that
crowned the rise to the Red Cliff].
Whether one considers the "that" clause a delayed
subject or a delayed sentence is really a question of terminology, so that
either label can be accepted.
Because most delayed
subjects are formed by infinitives or by subordinate clauses, the first
two exercises in the "complete" books focus on each of these separately.
You might want to skip these two, and start with the third exercise,
which includes sentences that could be considered delayed sentences. The
fourth exercise is for additional practice, if needed. The fifth is a passage
for analysis, and the sixth asks students to write or find sentences and,
at the teacher's option, create an exercise.
Students who have a
solid command of subordinate clauses, and a minimal command of infinitives
should find delayed subjects relatively easy to master.
The origin and stylistic
purpose(s) of this delaying construction might be an interesting topic
for a Master's thesis. As noted above, it can be used to shift the meaningful
David Crystal, a famous
British linguist, offers another suggestion and illustrates it with the
following two sentences:
It was nice having John and Mary come
and see us the other day.
He then claims that "I have put this choice before
thousands of people, over the years, and they always opt for the first."
He suggests that "We do not like long subjects." Thus we delay them. .
(The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left.
Oxford University Press, 2006. 128-129.)
Having John and Mary come and see us the other
day was nice.
Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
(“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
3. Place brackets [ ] around each subordinate clause. If the clause
functions as a noun, label its function. If it functions as an adjective
or adverb, draw an arrow from the opening bracket to the word that the
4. Place a vertical line after each main clause.
5. Label each delayed subject “DS.”
Probable Time Required: Two exercises?
# 1 - Infinitives as Delayed Subjects
# 2 - Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects
# 3 - Delayed Sentences
# 5 - A Passage for Analysis
# 6 - Treasure Hunt/Creating an Exercise
| Treasure Hunt
(and/or Recipe Roster): Find and bring to class (and/or write) a sentence
that has a delayed subject or sentence.
Creating an Exercise: In a story or
book that you like, find five sentences that have delayed subjects or sentences.
For your classmates, make an exercise (infinitives, subordinate clauses,
or mixed). For your teacher, make an analysis key. (Remember that your
teacher may use your exercise in future years.)