What does "today" modify?

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TheParser

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"He seems very tense today."

Some experts say that "today" modifies the whole sentence; other experts say that "today" modifies the verb "seems."

What do you say. And why?

Thank you.
 

Allen165

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"He seems very tense today."

Some experts say that "today" modifies the whole sentence; other experts say that "today" modifies the verb "seems."

What do you say. And why?

Thank you.

What difference does it make whether "today" modifies "seems" or the whole sentence?
 

TheParser

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What difference does it make whether "today" modifies "seems" or the whole sentence?

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Good morning, Jasmin.

(1) Thank you for your reply.

(2) Since you are in the field of law, I was a bit astounded by your question. Lawyers, of course, are interested in concise meanings.

(3) I have no examples at hand, but I imagine that it is possible that some court rulings have depended on such "minor" issues.

(4) Personally, I feel it IS important to know what modifies what, but I am not articulate enough to express the reason. Perhaps someone else will come to my rescue.

Thank you again for your reply. Have a nice day!
 

Allen165

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Good morning, Jasmin.

(1) Thank you for your reply.

(2) Since you are in the field of law, I was a bit astounded by your question. Lawyers, of course, are interested in concise meanings.

(3) I have no examples at hand, but I imagine that it is possible that some court rulings have depended on such "minor" issues.

(4) Personally, I feel it IS important to know what modifies what, but I am not articulate enough to express the reason. Perhaps someone else will come to my rescue.

Thank you again for your reply. Have a nice day!

What would you say would be the difference in meaning if "today" modified "seems" as opposed to the whole sentence?

I did not mean to imply that the question of what modifies what is irrelevant in general; I just don't see its relevance in your example.
 

sarat_106

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"He seems very tense today."

Some experts say that "today" modifies the whole sentence; other experts say that "today" modifies the verb "seems."

What do you say. And why?

Thank you.

Adverbs that modify a verb are usually placed immediately after the conjugated verb. But if an adverb is a comment on the entire sentence , it may be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence. Adverbs of this type include adverbs of time and place.
In this sentence ‘He seems very tense today’, today modifies the whole sentence because you can not place it before the verb. By end placement, it is comment on the sentence in the sense that normally he does not appear to be tense but there is some problem with him today.
 

TheParser

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What would you say would be the difference in meaning if "today" modified "seems" as opposed to the whole sentence?

I did not mean to imply that the question of what modifies what is irrelevant in general; I just don't see its relevance in your example.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Thank you for your reply.

I am not intelligent enough to debate a lawyer.

Sometimes when people are asked why they like something, they answer:

Just because I like it.

Well, I just want to know the answer.

Have a nice day!
 

TheParser

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Adverbs that modify a verb are usually placed immediately after the conjugated verb. But if an adverb is a comment on the entire sentence , it may be placed at the beginning or end of the sentence. Adverbs of this type include adverbs of time and place.
In this sentence ‘He seems very tense today’, today modifies the whole sentence because you can not place it before the verb. By end placement, it is comment on the sentence in the sense that normally he does not appear to be tense but there is some problem with him today.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Good morning, Teacher Sarat.

(1) Thank you very much for your very kind and informative answer.

(2) Many books and websites agree with you.

(3) Thank you for explaining it in such detail, too.

(4) I have also heard from some people that it modifies the verb.

(a) I have always had trouble with an adverb modifying a linking verb

such as "seems."

(i) There seems to be no "definitive" answer to the question: Can adverbs

modify linking verbs? If not, then the adverb must modify the whole

sentence.

(5) Thanks again. I shall add your comments to my notes.

Have a nice day!
 

sarat_106

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(i) There seems to be no "definitive" answer to the question: Can adverbs

modify linking verbs? If not, then the adverb must modify the whole

sentence.

(5) Thanks again. I shall add your comments to my notes.

Have a nice day!

You have raised a point that I have never encountered earlier. I think no adverb modifies a verb doing liking role, but it can, when it is not used as so. As:
You only seem like more of a nice guy.
The plant grew quickly. ("Quickly" describes the manner in which it grows. In this sentence, "to grow" is not being used as a linking verb.)
 

Raymott

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Here's something to consider:

A linking verb followed by an infinitive can take an adverb either before or after it.
She grew slowly to love him. She slowly grew to love him.
(slowly modifies the linking verb ‘grew’?)
The ghost suddenly seemed to disappear.
He liked mostly just to laze about.
The children initially appeared to be asleep.
We urgently tried to resuscitate him.
 

philadelphia

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I would say that 'today' modifies the whole sentence so for you to find out another meaning. Accordingly, it would infer that the other days - except that one - he may not be very tense. And it could modify the verb 'seem' at the same time because they at the moment consider him like that but they do not know how he is really usually

He is very tense => the statement is sure
He seems very tense => likely
He seems very tense today => unsure he is always very tense. Maybe he is quirky ;-)

Not a teacher at all
 
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TheParser

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Here's something to consider:

A linking verb followed by an infinitive can take an adverb either before or after it.
She grew slowly to love him. She slowly grew to love him.
(slowly modifies the linking verb ‘grew’?)
The ghost suddenly seemed to disappear.
He liked mostly just to laze about.
The children initially appeared to be asleep.
We urgently tried to resuscitate him.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Yes, sir, you are completely correct.

Just this morning another teacher introduced me to the idea of

so-called "resulting copulas."

For example: "suddenly" modifies "seemed" in your example.

Thank you SO much for confirming this information.

Have a nice day!
 

TheParser

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I would say that 'today' modifies the whole sentence so for you to find out another meaning. Accordingly, it would infer that the other days - except that one - he may not be very tense. And it could modify the verb 'seem' at the same time because they at the moment consider him like that but they do not know how he is really usually

He is very tense => the statement is sure
He seems very tense => likely
He seems very tense today => unsure he is always very tense. Maybe he is quirky ;-)

Not a teacher at all


***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Good morning, Philadelphia.

Thank you VERY much for your kind reply. Yes, maybe he is quirky!!!

Have a nice day!
 

corum

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"He seems very tense today."

Some experts say that "today" modifies the whole sentence; other experts say that "today" modifies the verb "seems."

What do you say. And why?

Thank you.

In terms of their grammatical functions, adverbials fall into gour main categories:

- adjuncts
- subjuncts
- disjuncts
- conjuncts

Adjuncts, more than other adverbials, resemble the sentence elements: S, O, C.

1. they can be the focus of cleft sentences:

It is today that he seems tense.

2. potentiality for being the focus of subjuncts:

He seems tense only today.

3. elicitation by question forms:

When does he seem tense? Today.

4. alternative interrogation and negation:

Did he seem tense yesterday or the day before yesterday?
He did not seem tense yesterday but the day before yesterday.

5. like other post-operator elements, adjuncts can come within the scope of predication ellipsis:

He seems tense today and she also seems tense today. -->
Today, he seems tense and so also does she.

While these characteristics hold generally for all adjuncts, there are three subcategories ranging in centrality from obligatory predication adjunct (normally can only be placed at E(nd) position) to the sentence adjunct whose position is more variable and whose presence is always optional.

'today' is a sentence adjunct (hinges on the rest of the sentence) of time and it pinpoints background information here:

- What is he like Today?
- Today, he seems tense. :tick:
- He seems tense today. :tick:

'today is an optional predication adjunct (hinges on the verb "seems") here:

- I thought he would seem tense on Thursday.
- No! He will seem tense today. :tick:
- No! Today, he will seem tense. :cross:

'today', according as it pinpoints new information or background information, can function as an optional predicate adjunct (focus on the verb) or a sentence adjunct (focus on the whole sentence).
:up:
 

TheParser

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Thank you, Corum, for your detailed explanation.

Of course, I am only an "adverb" guy -- none of that "adjunct" and "subjunct" stuff for me.

I shall carefully study your post. I am starting to better understand that it is not simply an either/or matter. It is closer to a depends-on-your-meaning situation.

Have a nice day!

Thanks again.
 

corum

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Thank you, Corum, for your detailed explanation.

Of course, I am only an "adverb" guy -- none of that "adjunct" and "subjunct" stuff for me.

I shall carefully study your post. I am starting to better understand that it is not simply an either/or matter. It is closer to a depends-on-your-meaning situation.

Have a nice day!

Thanks again.

The Quirkian treatment of adverbials is well-known to be (one of) the most detailed and comprehensive account(s) provided so far in the annals of English linguistics. If you want to be big on this part of grammar, I firmly recommend that you buy his book.

This is what Quirk says:
But the difference does not necessarily lie in the adjuncts themselves. The same phrase can be used as either predication or sentence adjunct, according as it pinpoints new information in the predication or provides general background information for the sentence as a whole:

(I looked everywhere for it and eventually) I found the letter in the kitchen.
(I had totally forgotten about the matter, but then, almost by chance) I found the letter(,) in the kitchen.

The optional comma in the second sentence shows the adverbial's peripheral relation to the rest of the sentence (sentence adverbial providing background info). In the first sentence, the adverbial 'in the kitchen' provides new info: we have an optional predicate adjunct, which focuses on the verb.

EDIT: One more thing, the taxonomic system of adverbials according to adjunct, subjunct, disjunct, and conjunct is a Quirkian speciality. You will not find such classification elsewhere. Biber, for example, gives a less sophisticated and less detailed account of adverbials in SGSWE. Biber's saving grace is that his book is corpus-based with lots of statistics on usage patterns.
 
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