1. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Adverbial phrase/prepositional phrase

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Poziga, Jun 14, 2014.

    Hello. :)

    I have an exam on monday and I'm not sure if I understand this.

    I have a difficulty differing adverbial phrase and prepositional phrase, to my slovenian eyes they seem very much alike. :/

    "Do you see that building on the right?"
    "That building on the right" is a noun phrase with "building" functioning as a headword and "that" as a determiner, right? And I understand "on the right" functions as a postmodifier, but I'm not sure whether "on the right" is prepositional phrase or adverbial phrase.

    Can someone help me to understand this? And please don't answer me just with definitions, but with simple explanation on how to differ these two phrases (if there is such an explanation), please...

    I appreciate your help. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    An adverbial phrase modifies the verb. For example, consider "He runs quickly." The word "quickly" is telling us more about "runs." In your example, "on the right" is modifying "the building," which is not a verb. So in this case, you have a prepositional phrase. The word "that" doesn't do anything here as far as your question is concerned; you could replace it with "the" if that makes it easier to understand.

    When you're taking the exam, think about what the phrase is modifying; that will help you figure out whether you have an adverbial phrase (modifies verb) or a prepositional phrase (shows relationship between object and another word/phrase in the sentence). As another example, consider "He stood up and walked across the hall." "Up" doesn't modify any object, so it's not functioning as a preposition here; but "across" modifies "the hall." Thus, "across the hall" is a prepositional phrase.

    FYI, there's also something called a prepositional adverb, which looks like an adjective but functions like an adverb. For example, consider "He fell down." "down" is modifying "fell" here.

    Finally, if you know how to draw syntax trees, this will become a lot easier because they allow you to see the syntactic structure of the sentence. Don't feel bad if you don't know syntax trees; I learned them back in high school, but I don't remember much about them.

    Good luck on the exam! Posting this made me realize how complicated English can be sometimes.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Distinguishing the two is all about the verb. There are many adverbial phrases that look identical to prepositional phrases, so to know the difference, you have to see what the phrase is modifying.

    Do you see that building on the right? <-- Prepositional Phrase

    I was sitting in my truck. <-- Adverbial Phrase

    In the second example, in my truck, though it contains no actual adverb, is an adverbial phrase because it directly modifies the verb sitting. In this case it answers the question of the where of the verb.

    In your example, the first one, it is a simple prepositional phrase, which you have correctly identified as part of a noun phrase. In this case, on the right is modifying a noun, building, not a verb, though there is an implicit copula verb in play and one can argue that the full phrase is that building (being) on the right. Regardless, the implicit copula verb, like all copulas, never takes an adverb as a modifier, always an adjective.
     
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  4. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you guys, awesome answers! This is more or less the only thing bugging me, I lmanaged to learn the rest; gerunds, finite and non-finite clauses...

    @thirdwind , I actually know the trees, we have to make them in exam and I don't find them so difficult, quite interesting and amusing, actually (probably because in my language they are rather boring). :)
    Yes it can be complicated sometimes, but believe me, slovenian language is more difficult. We don't have only singular and plural, we also have dual. And instead of the usual four declinations we have six. We have a lot more verbal forms. Plus there are a bunch of grammar rules which have more exceptions than actual examples supporting the rules... We actually have a subject where we learn mostly these exceptions and then the exam is all about theese exceptions -.-
    I find English interesting, more than my own language, honestly. :p
    Thanks for the exam wish, I already passed a midterm, so I hope this won't be much more difficult.

    I think the question was the problem. On different sites the explanation was only: "if you can ask yourself Where?, When?, In what manner?, To what extent?, then it's an adverbial." but it was never mentioned that it is important about what are you asking yourself - a verb or a noun.
    So just to make sure I understood correctly; in first case (Do you see that building on the right?) I ask myself about the noun - Where is that building? - and that makes it a prepositional phrase. In the second case (I was sitting in my truck.) I ask myself about the verb - where am I sitting? - and that makes it an adverbial phrase. Correct?

    Edited to add: What about "He climbed through the window". On my notes, I have "through the window" marked as a preposition phrase. But it's modyfing verb, right? :confused:
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is where it gets a little dicey, and I have to admit that the example that TW gave earlier is equally dicey.

    In the sentence, I was sitting in my truck, truck cannot really be argued to be a logical object, direct or indirect. I'm not doing anything to the truck (accusative), with the truck (instrumental), giving anything to the truck (dative), or taking anything from the truck (genitive). I am describe my state of sitting.

    He climbed through the window.

    Here we can argue that the window is a direct object and that through is the preposition that sets up how the noun will be modified, in this case simple accusative case.
     
  6. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm, I don't know why I understood this the previous semester, but now I'm confused...
     
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  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't help that English has no case endings and that if Slovenian is anything like Russian (I speak Russian) then I was sitting in my truck would have truck in the locative case.

    Я сидел в своем грузовике.

    where the nominative for truck is грузовик.
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Agreed on both counts.

    Yes, it's a prepositional phrase. "Through" can't modify "climbed" because that doesn't make sense. Another way to think about it is that "through the window" doesn't tell you how he climbed.
     
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  9. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes it looks like it's the same. We have Sedel sem v tovornjaku.
    That makes sense. Looks like you also have to use good old logic for everything to make sense. :) ...and make a bunch of exercises. :)

    Ok, you both have been very helpful, I think I'll make it alone from here on. And if I have any further problems, I'll just ask you experts here. :D
     
  10. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    I passed the exam. :)

    It wasn't perfect, but still. It also doesn't really reflect my knowledge of English, because I aim to learn it really well, so I can write in English. So I have the needed motivation to learn it better, even though I already passed the exam. :)

    Thank you again for your help. :)
     
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