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Ways of expressing adverbial modifiers


§ 97. Adverbials are grouped according to their structure (ways of expression) and their meaning. There is no one-to-one correspondence between these two groupings, though we may observe certain tendencies in the ways of expressing this or that kind of adverbial modifier.

An adverbial modifier may be expressed by:


1. An adverb (sometimes preceded by a preposition).


Jane sings beautifully.

George is always busy.

The ship sailed east.


2. An adverbial phrase, with an adverb as headword.


We met ten years ago and parted two years later.

They worked till late at night.


3. A noun, pronounor numeral preceded by a preposition or prepositional nominal phrase.


A dim light was burning in the archway under the inner gate.

Beyond it Mr Watson could see the outer gate.

Behind him he could hear Kirstie sobbing.

We met in 1975.

Classes begin on the first of September.


4. A noun without a preposition or a non-preposi­tional noun phrase, the latter usually containing such words as this, that, every, last, next.


Wait a minute!

Come this way, please.

We meet every day.


5. A non-finite verb form:


a) a gerund or a gerundial phrase.


Remember to open the window before doing your morning exercises.

One day, on returning to his hotel, he found a note in his room.


b) an infinitive or an infinitive phrase.


The problem is too difficult to solve.

We’ve come here to ask you a favour.

c) a participle or a participial phrase.

Sighing, Betty returned to the kitchen.

Pounding the house, they entered a quiet, walled garden.

6. A predicative complex:


a) a gerundial construction.


Are you angry because of my being late?


b) a for-to-infinitive construction.


The problem is too difficult for a child to solve.


c) a non-prepositional or prepositional absolute construction.

The meal over, they went to the fuel store.

There having been no rain, the earth was dry.

Earphones on, Fred sat alone in Ivor’s room.

I don’t want to quarrel with the children listening.


7. An adjective, an adverb, a participle,a noun, aprepositional phrase, an infinitive, an infinitive or participial phrase introduced by a conjunction.


I’ll come earlier if necessary.

Her conduct when there was most unaccountable.

When argued with, Ida had one answer.

As a little girl she used to make daisy-chains.

I began to wonder whether he'd manage to give an interview while still in his right mind.

He quickly did this, and while doing it dropped his umbrella.

As if to bring matters to a focus, Tess’s father was heard approaching at that moment.


8. A Clause (as part of a complex sentence).


Won’t you stay till the rain stops?

We stayed at home because it rained.

Structural classification of the adverbial modifier

§ 98. From the point of view of its structure the adverbial modifier, may be simple, phrasal, complex, clausal.


We started early.

We started at five in the morning.

John sat with his elbows on the table and his hands clasped.

When the cat is away, the mice will play.

Semantic characteristics of the adverbial modifier

§ 99. Semantically adverbials denote place, time, manner, cause, purpose, result, condition, concession, attendant circumstances, comparison, degree, measure, exception, thus forming semantic classes, such as adverbials of place, time, etc.

The semantic class of an adverbial may be identified directly (absolutely) or indirectly (relatively). It is identified directly by lexical meaning of the word or phrase used as an adverbial, as in:


I saw him yesterday. (time)

She spoke in a loud voice. (manner)


In other cases the semantic type is identified relatively, that is, only through the relationship of the adverbial to the modified part of the sentence, as is often the case with participles, infinitives, and some preposi­tional phrases. Thus the phrase with fear functions as an adverbial of manner in the sentence She spoke with fear and as an adverbial of reason in the sentence She shook with fear. The phrase Walking along the track to Buckmaster’s denotes motion in some direction, but in the sentence Walk­ing along the track towards Buckmaster’s Bowen burst into song it acquires temporal meaning and serves as an adverbial of time.

In the majority of cases, an identifying question may help to distinguish between adverbial modifiers from the semantic point of view. When? suggests time, where? - place, in what case? - condition, etc. However, it is not always possible to find an identifying question for every adverbial. Sometimes one and the same question word may correspond to different kinds of adverbials. Thus how? may suggest manner, comparison and degree. On the other hand such adverbials as those of result and attendant circumstances have no corresponding question words.

Semantic classes of adverbial modifiers


The adverbial of place

§ 100. This adverbial expresses:


a) Place proper.


John was born in Australia, but lives in England.


b) Direction or destination.


He moved to Australia in 1975.


c) Distance.


He lives far from his parents.


The identifying questions are where? for place proper, where to? where from? - for direction, where? how far? - for distance.

The adverbial of time

§ 101. The adverbial of time has four variations:


a) The adverbial of time proper denotes the time of some event. It may be expressed in almost all the ways enumerated in § 97.


We shall meet tomorrow.

Ten days later she returned.

When angry count a hundred.


b) The adverbial of frequency indicates how often the event denoted by the predicate takes place. It is mostly placed before the notional part of the predicate (if it is expressed by an adverb).


I am always careful.

We often see each other.

Does he ever visit museums? - Once in a blue moon.

He calls me from time to time.

We have a get-together every year.


Adverbials of frequency are expressed by adverbs and adverbial phrases.


c) The adverbial of duration indicates the period of time during which some event takes place. They are often expressed by preposi­tional phrases with prepositions for, during, since, till, until. The preposition since denotes the starting point and the preposition till/until - the final point of some period.


Have you been there long? - A couple of hours.

They want to rest (for) a day or two.

The sun gives us light during the day.

We are to wait till the end of the exam.

This has been going on since our arrival.

He lived to be ninety.




The preposition for isoptional after the verbs ofduration.


d) The adverbial of time relationship presents the idea of time as related to some other event in time. This adverbial is expressed by such adverbs as still, yet, already, at last, before, after, by a noun, a gerund, or a prepositional phrase with the prepo­sitions by, before, after.


Thus the sentence It was still raining implies that it had been raining for some time before.

He hasn’t given his consent yet means that up to now we do not know anything about his consent.

The train has left already means that it has left by this time.

He graduated at last suggests after a long time or delay.


Here are some other examples of adverbial of time relationship:


Promise to come back by the end of the week.

We’ll see about it after classes.

Before answering the Boss stepped back to the chair and sank into it.


The same relationship can be seen in sentences with participial phrases, as in:


Arthur, having read the letter twice, put it in an envelope. (After he had read the letter twice...)


The adverbial of manner

§ 102. The adverbial of manner characterizes the action of the verb by indicating the way it is performed or by what means it is achieved. The identifying questions are how? in what way? by what means?

Adverbials of manner are mainly expressed by adverbs or prepositional phrases (including gerundial phrases) introduced by the prepositions with, without, by, by means of, or with the help of, the latter three suggesting means.


Hooper danced badly, but energetically.

She walked with short quick steps.

You begin learning a language by listening to the new sounds.

Thoughts are expressed by means of (with the help of) words.


Adverbials of manner may also be expressed by participial phrases and absolute constructions.


I looked up again and saw that coming from the door behind Palmer, she had entered the room.

She said the last words with a voice lowered.


Some adverbials of manner border on the instrumental object in cases like the following:


He opened the tin with a knife.


The identifying questions are either How did he open the tin? or What did he open the tin with?


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