Modifiers in the Subject

Modifiers. Last piece of jargon.

What are modifiers? Tell me more.

More details, more information. Just tell me more. That's what modifiers are.

Here's an example:

Fat cats sing lullabies.

Adding the modifier "fat" to the noun "cats" gives me more information, more details.

The new clause or sentence is no longer making a claim about the entire set of cats. Rather, it's making a claim about only a subset of cats. Which subset? The fat ones. It's the fat cats that sing lullabies. What about the non-fat cats, do they sing as well? The clause or sentence is silent.

In general, I want you to think of noun modification as "cutting down into the subset." I want you to imagine the unmodified version of the noun as a big set. In that set, you have tall cats, short cats, skinny cats, fat cats, just all the cats. Once modified, we've zoomed into the subset of fat cats.

Let's try a slightly more complicated modification.

Subject modification:

Fat cats trained by Parisian divas sing lullabies.

First, note that the predicate didn't change at all. It's still "...sing lullabies." But the subject changed. Its noun has been further modified.

Now, we're cutting even further down into the subset. We are talking about a subset of fat cats. Not all fat cats, no. Only the fat cats trained by Parisian divas. And what is it that we want to say about that subset of cats? They sing lullabies.

See full diagram.


Nouns in the subject can be modified. Think about the modification in terms of cutting down into subsets.

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