English Grammar

Adverbial Objectives

by Eugene R. Moutoux

1. Adverbial objectives are nouns and pronouns that function as adverbs. Indirect objects are adverbial objectives; as you may know, they tell to whom or for whom something is given, said, or shown, and they modify verbs. Adverbial objectives can express time when (at what time), extent of time (how long), location (place where), destination (place to which), direction, manner (how), value, weight, and quantity, among other things. They modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and even prepositions. 


2. Here are examples of adverbial objectives that modify verbs (adverbial objectives are underlined):

- time when (at what time): It is snowing this morning.

- extent of time (how long): I hope it snows all day.

- location (place where): Students can stay home.

- destination (place to which): Teachers want to go home.

- direction: He went this way, and she went that way.

- manner (how): He always wants to do things his own way.

- value: Gasoline costs a fortune.

- quantity: It costs three dollars a gallon.

- weight: One senior weighs 245 pounds.


3. Here are some adverbial objectives that modify words other than verbs:

- A football field is 160 feet wide. The adverbial objective feet modifies the predicate adjective wide.

- A bird in the hand is worth two [birds] in the bush. (The unexpressed noun birds is the adverbial objective; it modifies the predicate adjective worth.)

- You arrived ten minutes late for your lesson. (The adverbial objective minutes modifies the adverb late.)

- I plan to leave about an hour after dinner. (The adverbial objective hour modifies the preposition after.)

- Our new house is near a good school. (The adverbial objective school modifies the predicate adjective near.)

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4. Like adverbs, adverbial objectives can modify prepositions, prepositional phrases, and relative adverbs. Here is an example of each:

- They left town an hour before sunrise. The adverbial objective hour modifies the preposition before.

- The coffee was a trifle on the weak side. The adverbial objective trifle modifies the prepositional phrase on the weak side.

- We finished cleaning the house five minutes before they arrived. The adverbial objective minutes modifies the relative adverb before.

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5. What is the function of there in They asked for a ride there? If it is an adverb, it must modify the verb asked, the preposition for, or the prepositional phrase for a ride, and it clearly modifies none of these. So what’s going on? There can be a noun when it means "that point"; however, our there doesn’t mean that. One solution is to construe there as an elliptical expression, short for an infinitive phrase like to take them there; however, a better analysis is available. If nouns can function as adjectives and as adverbs, and if adjectives can function as nouns, why should adverbs not be able to function as adjectives? That would seem to be the simplest solution to the problem. A little thought and research uncovers a rather long list of adverbs that sometimes function as adjectives. Here are some of them used in noun phrases (adverbs functioning as an adjective are underlined):

- the long way around, an off day, the hike down

- on the way over, this very lesson, the way out

- on the trip back, the up escalator, the above words

The underlined words do not function as adverbs; as adverbs, they would have nothing to modify. Clearly they are used as adjectives. Similarly, there in the sentence They asked for a ride there is an adverb that functions as an adjective; it modifies the noun ride.

- from the teacher's enlarged edition of my book Diagramming Step by Step: One Hundred and Fifty-one Steps to Diagramming Excellence

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