I came across this sentence today:

They were most of them civilians.

Now how will we analyse"most of them" here? Is it just a modifier in Noun Phrase - "most of them civilians"? Which seems very unlikely.

"most of them" as far as I know can be a partitive construction with the determinative "most" ised a fused determinative construction and "them" is a pronoun.

But I really can't analyse the "most of them civilians" structure as used in the quoted sentence.

Can anyone help?

  • 3
    It's not uncommon; think of it as parenthetical -- They were (most of them) civilians. It's a qualification of the subject quantifier, floated to adverbial position after the first auxiliary verb, like They each took the oath is floated from Each of them took the oath.
    – jlawler
    Aug 31 at 15:56
  • @jlawler it is still not making sense. Sorry for that. Yes I can understand "they each" it is modification right? I mean "they" is post modified, right? Aug 31 at 16:10
  • I have CGEL and CaGEL, if you can point to what to read? Or any paper, user friendly because I am not a linguist? It will be immensely helpful. Aug 31 at 16:12
  • And does such thing happen with only "most of them". No other personal pronoun or any other pertitive construction. Right? Aug 31 at 17:29
  • "They were, in the main, civilians" is the same, and again you can get away without the parenthetical commas. Also: "They were fairly much all civilians". The more complex the phrase the more you need the commas. E.g. "They were, in general but especially the very young and the very old, civilians". Sep 2 at 7:21

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