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Q: grammar - introductory phrase/clause ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: rkmvs-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 06 Aug 2003 20:56 PDT
Expires: 05 Sep 2003 20:56 PDT
Question ID: 240958

I have found the following sentence in a local newspaper.

Seven hours after the bombing, the acrid smell of smoke still hung
thick in the air."

I understand that the phrase "Seven hours after the bombing" serves as
an adverbial phrase modifying the verb "hung". However, the phrase is
in nominative case [ 'Seven hours' taking a noun form, and the
prepostitional phrase 'after the bombing' modifying it]. From what i
know, a nominative form doesn't serve an adverbial function (or can

Now is it that there is a missing (ellipted)prepostion  or is the
sentence grammatcially incorrect?

For example:

"I returned Sunday morning"
-> here "sunday morning" serves an adverbial function, but takes a
nominative form. This is okay as the preposition "on" is ellipted [
"on Sunday morning" is a prepostional phrase, which can serve an
adverbial function]

Subject: Re: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
Answered By: mvguy-ga on 07 Aug 2003 14:38 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

It is very common in English to use nouns as adverbs, especially when
used to establish time.  Here are some examples off the top of my

He slept 12 hours.  ("12 hours" is a noun phrase functioning as an
I'm going home tomorrow.  (Both home and tomorrow are nouns
functioning as adverbs.)
The Eagles lost Tuesday. ("Tuesday" functions as an adverb.)
We met yesterday. ("Yesterday" acts as an adverb.)
I punched him 16 times.  ("16 times" functions as an adverb.)
The one time I looked he wasn't there. ("The one time I looked" is a
noun phrase functioning as an adverb.)

Note that in all of these cases a noun (one that would normally be
used in the nominative) is doing the job of an adverb.  I haven't
thought this through completely, put it appears that when nouns
function as adverbs they
usually are placed at the beginning or end of the sentence.

Here are some Web references to the use of nouns as adverbs:

What Is a Noun?
"A noun can function in a sentence as a subject, a direct object, an
indirect object, a subject complement, an object complement, an
appositive, an adjective or an adverb."

Instructional Systems: Traditional English Grammar
"Adverbial Noun
"Sometimes a noun is used as an adverb. This noun is called an
adverbial noun.
"We went home early. (Home tells where.)
"The fish weighed ten pounds. (Ten pounds tells how much.)
"The contest will end Friday. (Friday tells when.)"

"Many nouns can actually be adverbs. For example, if we look at this
"I went downtown yesterday.
"and we try to figure out what part of speech downtown is, we might
say that it is a noun, but it is in fact an adverb."

"Adverbial Nouns
"Adverbial nouns act as adverbs by indicating distance, time, weight,
or value. Adverbial nouns are sometimes called adverbial objectives.
"The large cat might weigh twenty pounds."

"Nouns as Adverbs
"A noun may also function as an adverb. The noun-as-adverb functions
to modify or qualify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. A
noun-as-adverb will qualify the word it modifies by answering When?
Where? Why? Under What Condition? or To What Degree? an action occurs
or a situation exists. These modifiers typically appear anywhere in a
sentence, often some distance from the word they modify. Frequently
their position within a sentence can be changed without disrupting the
sense of the sentence. (Contrast the mobility of nouns-as-adverbs with
the fixed position of noun-adjectives.)
"...We went to the market Friday.  (We went when? Friday)
"Let's meet tomorrow at the same time.  (Meet when? Tomorrow)"

Nouns Used as Adverbs
"Some nouns function as adverbs, usually to indicate a spatial or
temporal orientation:"

Daily Grammar
"Adverbial objectives or adverbial nouns are nouns used as adverbs.
They usually tell amount, weight, time, distance, direction or value.
They can have adjectives modifying them. Example: He waited two days."

I hope this fully answers your question.



This answer was based on personal knowledge (I have spent 25 years as
a professional writer and/or editor) and research that included these
Google search terms:

"nouns functioning as adverbs"

"nouns used as adverbs"
rkmvs-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
A good answer. The link to KISS grammar claified some of my doubts.

I have also posted this question on alt.usage.english. Interested
people can follow the discussions there.

Subject: Re: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
From: justaskscott-ga on 06 Aug 2003 21:45 PDT
I believe that a preposition is indeed ellipted in that sentence.  My
candidate for the ellipted preposition is "after".  Of course, you
probably wouldn't want a sentence to start with the ungainly phrase,
"After seven hours after the bombing".  However, a phrase such as
"After seven hours had passed after the bombing", while not elegant,
seems at least passable.  (An alternative possibility is "Upon the
passage of seven hours after the bombing".)

If this comment sounds right to you, I would be happy to post it as an
Subject: Re: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
From: filian-ga on 07 Aug 2003 06:36 PDT
"Seven hours after the bombing, the acrid smell of smoke still hung
thick in the air."

Not to mention the word they should have chosen is "thickly" not "thick".
Subject: Re: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
From: voila-ga on 07 Aug 2003 12:44 PDT
To my way of thinking, "seven years after the bombing" is a temporal
adverbial noun phrase. While syntactically these phrases usually fall
at the end of a sentence, I don't think there's a hard-and-fast rule
about using them in an introductory phrase to denote time (when?).
"After the bombing" is the prepositional adverbial phrase and "seven
years" is the adverbial noun phrase modifying it.

Would you like fries with that?
Subject: Re: grammar - introductory phrase/clause
From: voila-ga on 07 Aug 2003 12:59 PDT
I think I'd better change that "years" to "hours."  Yikes, that would
be one long smokin' bomb!

This is one of these oddities to document, but I'll keep looking for a
reference if no one answers this more comprehensively.

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