Adjuncts in English

This post will help you understand what adjuncts are, different kinds of adjuncts, how to identify them, and what they do in a sentence.

What are adjuncts in English?

Adjunct definition: an adjunct in English is a word, phrase, or clause that modifies something in a sentence (clause) and can be taken out of it without changing its core meaning. It’s an extra or secondary piece of information that modifies something in a sentence and makes it more informative, but its presence is not necessary for the construction of the sentence. Therefore, it can be removed from the sentence without making the sentence ungrammatical or altering its integrity.

An adjunct is usually an adverb or noun that works as an adjective or an adverb. Let’s look at some examples of adjuncts in sentences before diving deep:

  • I play cricket in the morning.

In this sentence, the preposition phrase ‘in the morning’ is working as an adjunct (adverbial adjunct). The sentence is grammatically fine without it: I play cricket.

Without it, we just lose some information that might (in most cases does) help you know more about the situation. Without it, we just don’t know the time of the action; we don’t know where we play cricket. But it does not make the sentence ungrammatical or meaningless. It is obvious that this piece of information (adjunct) definitely makes the sentence more informative.

  • We hardly attend parties.

Here, the word ‘hardly’ is an adjunct, a regular adverb. It modifies the verb ‘attend’ by talking about its frequency; it tells us how frequently the action takes place. Taking it out of the sentence won’t change the core meaning of the sentence.

  • Let’s have some pasta in front of the house.

The adjunct in the sentence is ‘in front of the house‘. It is not necessary to the core meaning and the grammatical stability of the sentence.

Adjunct infographic
Adjunct infographic

You can have multiple adjuncts in a sentence!

There is no limit in terms of how many adjuncts you can use in a sentence. Let’s look at an example and see it.

Core sentence: We will call you.

Sentence with multiple adjuncts: We will definitely call you in the evening at your number after the party.

This sentence has 4 adjuncts in it. We could have added more adjuncts to it if we wanted. Here are the adjuncts:

1. Definitely
2. In the evening
3. At your number
4. After the party

Infusing multiple adjuncts in your sentence may look clumsy. So, always try not to overuse them.

Note: an adjunct can be a word, phrase, or clause.

Adjunt as a word

An adjunct as single words work as an adverb in a sentence, They are adverbs of frequency, sentence adverbs, adverbs of time, adverbs of place, and adverbs of manner,

Let’s look at some adjuncts as a single word.

  • Fortunately, I was there to help you.

Fortunately’ is the adjunct in the sentence. It is a sentence adverb that’s modifying the entire sentence.

  • I often call my school friends.

Often‘ (an adverb of frequency) is the adjunct in the sentence.

  • I will throw a party tonight.

Here, ‘tonight’ is the adjunct in the sentence. It is an adverb of time.

  • Jon is calling you upstairs.

Upstairs’ is the adjunct in the sentence.

  • You beautifully organized the function.

The adjunct in this sentence is ‘beautifully‘.

Adjunct as a phrase

There are a couple of phrases that can be an adjunct to the sentence they are a part of. Prepositional phrases and infinitive phrases are the most common amongst them.

Examples:

  • They are talking to the boys in my room.

Here, ‘in my room‘ is the adjunct. It is a prepositional phrase working as an adverb in the sentence. Since the information is nonessential to the sentence, it is termed an adjunct.

  • Jon is working very hard to take care of his family.

‘To take care of his family‘ is an infinitive phrase working as an adverb. Since it is nonessential to the sentence, it is termed an adjunct.

More examples:

  • We will be here after the match.
  • I will call you in some time.
  • Ashok left early to join the wedding of his friend Amit.
  • She was begging us not to leave her place.

Adjunct as a clause

A dependent clause working as an adverb is an adjunct to a sentence. Let’s look at some examples.

Examples:

  • I went shopping as I was getting bored.

As I was getting bored‘ is a dependent clause working as an adverb, telling the reason for the action. It is an adjunct to the main clause as it is nonessential to it.

  • Nancy will leave her office after the meeting gets over.

Here, ‘after the meeting gets over’ is an adjunct to the main clause. It is a dependent clause working as an adverb, telling the time of the action.

  • She follows me everywhere I go.

Everywhere I go‘ is the adjunct in the sentence. It is modifying the main verb with the place of the action.

Adjunct vs Complement

You might confuse a complement with an adjunct. A complement also gives information about something in a sentence. But the difference between an adjunct and a complement is that an adjunct gives nonessential information about the main verb and is an adverb usually, but a complement gives essential information about something in a sentence and can be a noun, adjective, or an adverb.

You can’t take a complement out of a sentence without making it ungrammatical or changing its core meaning, but adjunct can be taken out of a sentence without making it ungrammatical.

Complements

  • Could you put me in the group?

Here, ‘in the group‘ (a prepositional phrase) is a complement to the verb ‘put’. Taking it out of the sentence changes the meaning of the sentence. An adjunct does not do that.

  • The movie was extremely good.

Here, the adjective phrase ‘extremely good’ is a complement: subject complement. The sentence would be ungrammatical without it.

  • My father is a doctor.

A doctor‘ is a complement to the subject. It is a noun phrase working as the subject complement.

  •  I want you dead.

Dead’ is a complement to the verb ‘want‘. It is a past participle working as an adjective. The sentence gives a completely different meaning without it.

Adjuncts

  • Could you put me in the group tomorrow?

Tomorrow’ is an adjunct to the sentence.

  • I want you in the meeting.

In the meeting‘ (prepositional phrase) is an adjunct to the sentence

Functions of an adjunct

We, by now, know that an adjunct is usually an adverb giving non-essential information. Let’s look at what type of information or how it modifies the main verb in a sentence. 

Time adjunct

Time adjuncts are adverbs of time that modify the main verb by talking about the time of the action.

Examples:

  • You didn’t come to see me yesterday.
  • I was sleeping that time.
  • We had already closed down the shop when you called.

Place adjunct

A place adjunct modifies a verb by talking about the place of the action.

Examples:

  • Both of you come here.
  • Jon is teaching some kids upstairs.
  • They called me in the garden.
  • They were playing where we used to play.

Manner adjunct

A manner adjunct gives information about the manner in which an action takes place. These are adverbs of manner generally ending with ‘ly’.

Examples:

  • You danced beautifully.
  • I cleverly changed our drinks and gave him the alcoholic one.
  • We made it with a lot of passion.
  • They were eating like they hadn’t eaten in years.

Degree adjunct

These are adverbs of degree talking about to what degree something is true or something happens.

Examples:

  • I have completely changed my teaching style.
  • It was somewhat fast.
  • He ran very fast.
  • You are as good as you think you are.
  • We are not as prepared as our competitors are.

Reason adjunct

These are often infinitive phrases working as an adverb and telling us the reason for the main action. Adverb clauses can also do the same job.

Examples:

  • I am doing this to make everyone happy.
  • He left the company to get a bigger package.
  • The company has hired you because of your good communication skills.
  • The company fired you because you weren’t productive.

Frequency adjunct

These are adverbs of frequency talking about the frequency of an action.

Examples:

  • I sometimes don’t do anything.
  • We hardly go to pubs.
  • Britney never goes out without her makeup kit.
  • We talk once in a while.

Types of adjuncts

Let’s look at different things that we can adjuncts or that can provide additional or grammatically dispensible information in a sentence. Knowing these will help us understand how to identify an adjunct in a sentence.

Here are the things that we can call adjuncts:

  1. Prepositional phrase
  2. Infinitive phrase
  3. Adverb clause
  4. Adjective clause
  5. Participle phrase
  6. Appositive phrase
  7. Absolute phrase

All the these mentioned in the list provide extra or dispensable information about something in a sentence. Let’s study them and see how we can call them adjuncts.

1. Prepositional phrase

When a prepositional phrase modifies a verb with extra information, it is an adjunct to the core meaning and grammatical sanctity of the sentence.

Examples:

  • I was sleeping in my kitchen last night.
  • They called us after the party.

Note: when prepositional phrases modify a noun, they often give essential information about the noun. When they do that, they are not adjuncts to the sentence.

Ex- The man in the blue jacket is a friend of mine.

The prepositional phrase ‘in the blue jacket’ is giving essential information about the noun ‘man’. It is helping us identify the noun. Taking it out of the sentence will change the original meaning of the sentence. It is not an adjunct here.

2. Infinitive phrase

Infinitive phrases can also function as adverbs. When they do, they are adjuncts to the sentence.

Examples:

  • She was working here to help us with our English.
  • Monice left her place to achieve her goals.

These infinitive phrases are working as adverbs and are grammatically dispensable.

3. Adverb clause

An adverb clause is a dependent clause that works as an adverb. It is also an adjunct to the sentence.

Examples:

  • He owns this company because he worked very hard.
  • Max joined us in the party though he was feeling blue.

4. Adjective clause

An adjective clause when providing nonessential about the noun it modifies is an adjunct to the sentence. Nonessential adjective clauses are offset using commas.

Examples:

  • Delhi, which is my hometown, is the capital of India.
  • The cops were talking to Jacob, who lives next to my house.

5. Participle phrase

A participle phrase starts with a participle, present, past, or perfect, and works as an adjective or an adverb in a sentence. It gives nonessential information and can be taken out of the sentence without making it ungrammatical.

Examples:

Note: participle phrases, leaving the perfect participle phrase, can be essential to the meaning of the sentence. When they are, they are not adjuncts to the sentence they are a part of.

  • The man holding the flag is my history teacher.
  • Did you watch the movie released last week?

Both the participle phrases are essential information about the nouns they are modifying. They are essential to identify the nouns.

6. Appositive or appositive phrase

An appositive phrase is a noun phrase that sits next to another noun and renames it. When it renames a proper noun, it becomes an adjunct to the sentence and grammatically indispensable.

Examples:

  • Tony Lee, the head of our sales department, is getting married this week.
  • Did you get to get to Amanda, my sister?

Note: when it sits next to a noun that is not specified, it becomes essential to the meaning of the sentence and is not adjunct to it.

Ex- Your friend Cheal Sonnen is great at public speaking.

Cheal Sonnen is the appositive here. It is modifying the noun ‘friend‘ with essential information. Without it, we wouldn’t know which friend the writer is referring to.

7. Absolute phrase

An absolute phrase is a phrase that modifies an independent clause (a complete sentence).

Examples:

  • Dogs howling, we entered the building to see if it was actually haunted.
  • The weather being cloudy, we decided to stay home and not do hike the mountains.

In the first example, the absolute is adding visuals related to the situation, and in the second sentence, it is working as the cause of the main clause.

Imported points to note

1. Adjuncts are often adverbs.

An adverb functions as an adjunct most times. But it is important to note that an adjective can also be an adjunct. Single-word adjectives or phrases usually aren’t adjuncts; it’s an adjective clause that can be an adjunct to a sentence.

  • They were partying in the dark. (adverb)
  • She bought a fancy car last night. (adverb)
  • Virat Kohli, who is arguably the most famous cricketer in India, is not the captain of the Indian cricket team anymore. (adjective)

In the first two examples, the adjuncts are an adverb, which they generally are, but in the last example, it’s an adjective (clause). 

Learning: an adjective can also be an adjunct.

2. Use a comma after an introductory adjunct.

If an adjunct comes at the beginning of a sentence, use a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence.

Examples:

  • The day before yesterday, I went shopping with my friends.
  • At the end of the day, you are the guy that decides what happens here.
  • Honestly, I don’t know what to do now.
  • After the game, we will go to Ron’s place and order pizza.

Congratulations on mastering adjuncts! Hope you enjoyed reading it and found it informative enough to share it with others.

Leave a Comment