Adjuncts in English Grammar

adjuncts in grammar
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In English grammar, an adjunct (pronounced A-junkt) is a word, phrase, or clause—usually, an adverbial—that is integrated within the structure of a sentence or clause (unlike a disjunct) and yet can be omitted without making the sentence ungrammatical. Adjective: adjunctive or adjunctival. Also known as adjunctival, adverbial adjunct, adjunct adverbial, and optional adverbial.

In The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (2007), Peter Matthews defines adjunct as "[a]ny element in the structure of a clause which is not part of its nucleus or core. E.g., in I will bring it on my bike tomorrow, the nucleus of the clause is I will bring it; the adjuncts are on my bike and tomorrow."


From the Latin, "join"

Examples and Observations

  • "By tomorrow it'll be against the law for the boys to march along the county road." (John Steinbeck, In Dubious Battle, 1936)
  • "The judge spoke up quickly and for the first time looked Albert squarely in the eye." (Willa Cather, "Double Birthday," 1929)
  • An ancient craft that has been almost completely forgotten in the West is basket making.
  • "Janey . . . is standing there with her eyes wide open in amazement. She looks like she is the one who almost got hit in the head with a frozen duck." (Kelly Harms, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane. Macmillan, 2013)

Adjuncts and Predicates

  • "Adjuncts are words and phrases, like adverbs and adverb phrases, which are not completely central to the meaning of the clause; predicate contrasts with adjunct, although with some unfortunate inconsistency. For some grammarians, adjuncts are not a part of the predicate, so that for them a clause consists of subject, predicate, and adjuncts. For others, perhaps the majority, adjuncts are a part of the predicate, so that the clause consists of just two parts, subject, and predicate, with the predicate in turn containing, amongst other things, any adjuncts." (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Predication Adjuncts and Sentence Adjuncts

  • "[A]djunct(-ival) [is a] term used in grammatical theory to refer to an optional or secondary element in a construction: an adjunct may be removed without the structural identity of the rest of the construction being affected. The clearest examples at sentence level are adverbials, e.g. John kicked the ball yesterday instead of John kicked the ball, but not *John kicked yesterday, etc.; but other elements have been classed as adjunctival, in various descriptions, such as vocatives and adjectives. Many adjuncts can also be analyzed as modifiers, attached to the head of a phrase (as with adjectives, and some adverbs)." (David Crystal, A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Blackwell, 1997)
  • "Adjuncts are by far the largest class [of the adverbials]. They relate either directly to the meaning of the verb (predication adjuncts) or to the sentence as a whole (sentence adjuncts). . . .
    "Because it is the nature of predication adjuncts to modify the meaning of the verb, they tend to stay close to the verb. Their most natural position is at the end of a clause, specifying the verb meaning in some way.
    She readily loaned me the money.
    I drove the car very slowly.
    By contrast, it is the nature of sentence adjuncts to modify a whole sentence, regardless of how many clauses it has. They therefore tend to appear at the sentence periphery—at the very beginning or very end.
    In the morning, we got up and went into town.
    We got up and went into town in the morning." (David Crystal, Making Sense of Grammar. Longman, 2004)

Characteristics of Adjuncts (Optional Adverbials)

  • "[A]dverbials occur widely in clauses as optional elements.
    Optional adverbials add additional information to the clause, covering a wide variety of meanings, such as place, time, manner, extent, and attitude."
    (D. Biber, et al., Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Longman, 2002)
    • Optional adverbials can be added to clauses with any type of verb.
    • They are usually adverb phrases, prepositional phrases, or noun phrases.
    • They can be placed in different positions within the clause—in final, initial, or medial positions.
    • More than one of them can occur in a single clause.
    • They are rather loosely attached to the rest of the clause. Whereas the verb phrase is central, the adverbial is relatively peripheral (except in those clause patterns that require adverbials).
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Nordquist, Richard. "Adjuncts in English Grammar." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Adjuncts in English Grammar. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Adjuncts in English Grammar." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).