Obligatory and non-obligatory adverbial modifiers 

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Obligatory and non-obligatory adverbial modifiers

§ 95. Adverbials are structurally more independent of the verb than objects. Their use is often optional. However, when introduced into the sentence, adverbials are of great communicative value. Thus in the sentence Professor Brown is leaving for London to-morrow, both adverbials for London and to-morrow give important pieces of information, although grammatically the sentence Professor Brown is leaving is complete.

Adverbials are obligatory when the sentence structure demands one or when their absence changes the meaning of the verb. This is the case:


a) After the verbs to behave, to act, to treat.


He behaved bravely. *He behaved has no sense.

The Murdstones treated David cruelly. - Мердстоны жестоко обращались с Давидом.

The doctor treated David - доктор лечил Давида.


b) After statal and durative verbs, such as to live, to dwell, to wait, to last, to weigh.


John lives in London. (John lives has a different meaning: ‘ he exists’, ‘he is alive’.)

The lecture lasted two hours.


c) After transitive verbs implying direction, such as to put, to take, to send.


Put the book on the shelf.

Take these letters to the post-office.


d) After intransitive verbs of motion and position in space, such as

to come, to go, to arrive, to return, to step, to sit, to lie, to stand.


Brett went to the dressing-room.

Robert was standing at the window.


The absolute use of the above verbs, that is without adverbials, is possible if the speaker is interested in the process itself or if the use of an adverbial is unnecessary because of the situation.


He was too weak to stand.

Everybody has come.


e) When an adverbial influences the meaning of a verb form.


I am going to the library to-morrow, (‘am going’ denotes intention, not an action).


f) When its absence changes the measing of the rest of the sentence.


Can you speak English without making mistakes?

I’ve never been there since my childhood.


Non-obligatory adverbials are those which are not necessary for the structure of the sentence. They neither influence the meaning of the verb form, nor change the structure or the meaning of the rest of the sentence, no matter how important they are from the communicative viewpoint.


She left the room without saying a word.

Before speaking he pressed the bell at his side.

Detached adverbial modifiers

§ 96. Detached adverbials being more loosely related to the modified parts of the sentence than non-detached adverbials are never obligatory. They are separated from the rest of the sentence by intonation in speaking and by commas in writing. Detachment of adverbials may be caused by various factors, the most important of which are their meaning, the form of expression, their extension, their position in the sentence, or the speaker’s desire for emphasis. Owing to their structure and meaning, absolute constructions are nearly always detached:


Wesley saw the boat, its decks deserted.


Participial phrases as adverbials also tend to be detached.


She then returned to her place, not having spoken another word.

Adverbials are detached when theyare placed m an unusual position, as in the following examples:

Like him, she saw danger in it.

Randall, for all his tiresomeness and badness, had always been her Randall.


Any adverbial may be detached if the speaker wishes to emphasize its meaning.

“He was her father,” said Frances Wilmot, gravely.

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.


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