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  1. #1
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    Default ON as an adverb?

    I was recently told that in the sentence "The light is on" on is an adverb rather than a particle of a phrasal verb.

    Could someone explain this please?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    I would say you can even think of it as of an adjective. Not so long ago, there was a discussion over a similar sentence: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...ve-phrase.html
    You probably didn't mean a particle but a preposition?
    Grammatical particle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Preposition and postposition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It's not a preposition here because it doesn't introduce a prepositional phrase. The light is not on anything. It's on. "On" can be deemed to modify the subject or the verb "is". Depending on what you decide to think of it, you should choose to call it either an adjective or an adverb.
    I am not not a teacher and can be wrong.

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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by vanity View Post
    I was recently told that in the sentence "The light is on" on is an adverb rather than a particle of a phrasal verb.

    Could someone explain this please?

    Thanks.

    It looks like a predicate adjective. I'm not a teacher, but I would say that the word on modifies the noun light.

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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    I would say you can even think of it as of an adjective. Not so long ago, there was a discussion over a similar sentence: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...ve-phrase.html
    You probably didn't mean a particle but a preposition?
    Grammatical particle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Preposition and postposition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It's not a preposition here because it doesn't introduce a prepositional phrase. The light is not on anything. It's on. "On" can be deemed to modify the subject or the verb "is". Depending on what you decide to think of it, you should choose to call it either an adjective or an adverb.
    I am not not a teacher and can be wrong.

    I did mean a particle as when prepositions or adverbs are a part of a phrasal verb - as is the preposition "on" in the phrasal verb to turn/switch on - they are also called particles.

    I am aware that it is not a preposition here, as there is no noun to follow (eg. on the wall)

    I am curious if its role here is to modify the subject (the light) - in which case it is, as you have mentioned, an adjective, or to modify the verb (is) which would mean it is an adverb indeed.

    The fact that it could be a part of incomplete phrasal verb (to switch on) makes it very confusing indeed.

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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Davis View Post
    It looks like a predicate adjective. I'm not a teacher, but I would say that the word on modifies the noun light.

    Hmmm, thank you for trying to solve this puzzle but I am not convinced - aren't adjectives supposed to describe nouns while this "on" relates to the verb instead?

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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by vanity View Post
    Hmmm, thank you for trying to solve this puzzle but I am not convinced - aren't adjectives supposed to describe nouns while this "on" relates to the verb instead?

    Well, you can always rewrite the predicate...

    The light is turned on.

  7. #7
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by vanity View Post
    Hmmm, thank you for trying to solve this puzzle but I am not convinced - aren't adjectives supposed to describe nouns while this "on" relates to the verb instead?
    What I think is that you're right not being convinced. AFAIK, the grammarians are not convinced either. I believe we have some English-speaking ones here, they could remove all the doubts from this matter.
    I also believe that these names should mirror what people feel about the sentence. If they feel that "on" modifies the noun, then it's an adjective, if they feel it modifies the verb - an adverb. If they cannot decide, they should agree that there's no agreement.
    What I've read so far induces the latter case. But it's not very much, so I, too, would like to hear from someone abundant with wisdom.

    As for the "switch on" part, I would say it's possible even to think of the "on" there as of an adjective or an adverb too.
    Last edited by mmasny; 24-Feb-2010 at 02:39.

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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Okay, okay, okay! Here's a link that should settle the question--I was right the first time:

    On | Define On at Dictionary.com

    It's a predicate adjective in this case.

  9. #9
    sarat_106 is offline Key Member
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    Exclamation Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    I would say you can even think of it as of an adjective. Not so long ago, there was a discussion over a similar sentence: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/as...ve-phrase.html
    You probably didn't mean a particle but a preposition?
    Grammatical particle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Preposition and postposition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It's not a preposition here because it doesn't introduce a prepositional phrase. The light is not on anything. It's on. "On" can be deemed to modify the subject or the verb "is". Depending on what you decide to think of it, you should choose to call it either an adjective or an adverb.
    I am not not a teacher and can be wrong.
    Your analysis is partially correct. Here ‘on’ is complementing the subject ‘light’ because ‘is’ is a linking verb which can link a subject to a complement(adjective). So ‘on’ is an adjective. In the following sentence ‘look’ is an action verb, so ‘on’ modifies it.
    Why are you looking on while others are working?

  10. #10
    corum is offline Banned
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    Default Re: ON as an adverb?

    Quote Originally Posted by sarat_106 View Post
    Your analysis is partially correct. Here ‘on’ is complementing the subject ‘light’ because ‘is’ is a linking verb which can link a subject to a complement(adjective). So ‘on’ is an adjective. In the following sentence ‘look’ is an action verb, so ‘on’ modifies it.
    Why are you looking on while others are working?
    I do not think you are right, Sarat. 'is' being a linking verb does not justify your argument in favor of 'on' being an adjective. Linking verbs occur in two clause types:

    • SVC
    • SVA


    A = obligatory predicate adjunct

    Tests:

    1. Is the light on or off?

    Here, 'on' demonstrates a typical attribute of adjuncts: alternative interrogation.

    2. Can 'on' be the focus of a cleft sentence?

    It is on that the light is.

    3. Adjuncts come within the scope of predication ellipsis:

    The green light is on and so is the yellow.

    4. The light is on and yellow. -- coordinated adj? or coordinated adj and adv?

    'on' does not stand the clefting test, nor does it pass the "coordination test" with an(other?) adjective.

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