Can an adverb follow "to be"?



Consider these examples:

  They are everywhere.
  There is food everywhere.

I used sentences like these a lot but lately I realize that everywhere is an adverb. What about those grammar rules that say "using adjective with linking verb" ?


Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 693



Some “adverbials” can act as adjectives. Locatives in particular—expressions which designate a location in time or space—can modify a nominal as well as an “action”, and thus may be properly employed as the complement of a linking verb:

Elizabeth is on the left.
We are ahead of schedule.
The keys could be anywhere.

Traditional grammarians sometimes try to get around this awkward fact by claiming that these “adverbials” modify the linking verb; but this is clearly wrong, since a) this leaves the verb without a complement, and b) the same constituents can be employed in contexts where they clearly modify nominals:

The ball on the left is bigger than the ball on the right.
We’d be grateful if anybody ahead of schedule on their own project could lend a hand getting ours out the door.
Anybody anywhere can do this.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 176 469

A very interesting answer. I had a similar question but I think I got the answer already. Thanks. Oh, that was a good question too. – learner – 2016-10-30T20:23:17.057


An adverb modifies a verb or an adjective.

You are correct that in sentences with a linking verb, the predicate modifier is usually an adjective. That is because the modifier is refering to the subject, which is a noun or pronoun.

However, in a few senteces using verb that may be considered linking, the predicate modifier is actually modifying the verb. In the exaples you give, everywhere modifies is and are.

They are [they exist]. Where are they [where do they exist]? Everywhere.


Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 804

Are you native? And do you think are,am,is always means the same as 'exist'? – Glittering river – 2018-03-13T07:33:44.043

@EvaristeGalois Yes, I am native, seventy years here, and a former teacher. The verb "to be" does not always mean "exist." However, in those cases where it takes an adverb, that is the rough sense of the meaning. – bib – 2018-03-13T11:22:29.247

In both sentences "The island is five miles from here" and "I am at home", can we think 'is' and 'am' to mean 'exist' as well? in my opinion, they mean the same as "The island exists five miles from here" and "I exist at home". Based on this semantic view, I think 'five miles from here' can be regarded as modifying 'is' because we can think of it as meaning 'exist'. What do you think of my thinking? – Glittering river – 2018-03-13T13:22:59.880

And only in such these cases "The apple is red', "I am riding a bicycle", "I am to help her learn English", "I was hit by the car", I think we seem not to be able to regard 'is,am,was,' as meaning 'exist,existed'. Is my thinking right? I need your help so much. It is the hardest part in English that I don't understand exactly in grammatical approach. I want to receive answer as soon as possible. :) – Glittering river – 2018-03-13T13:33:30.000


The rule "After to be follows an adjective" is simply formulated wrong.

  • What is he? -- He is a doctor. - to be + a noun
  • Where is he? -- He is in London/in hospital/at home/at work/ here - to be + where-indications (adverbials or adverbs)
  • He is new/old - to be +adjective

If you read texts carefully you will see that the rule "After to be follows an adjectve" is simply wrong.

You have to reformulate your rule: one of the sentence types with to be is to be + adjective. But there are also sentence types such as to be + noun or + adverbials/adverbs.

When you ask when was it the answers can be - That was after the war/ in1963/ on last Monday/recently/yesterday. Here you have when-indications after to be, and no adjectives.


Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 8 304


If you clarify the question, it'll be better. What you want to know? If you firmly believe that an adverb should not be used after a linking verb, I'm afraid, this is incorrect.

I'm not aware of the rule that denies a linking verb not taking an adverb after it. The simplest example is...

She is here! Here, is is a linking verb and here is an adjective. It's simple and clear.

Yes, we have rules for adverbial positioning and I think it'll be helpful.

The adverbs of manner (how), place (where -this is your case), and time (when) generally go in end position.

There is food everywhere (-place).; She brushed her hair slowly (-manner).

Another thing, Swan's book describes that in such cases, here and there begins the sentences. So again,

Everywhere there's food There's food everywhere.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 66 188

No, Maulik, I'm not asking about that rule. My question is why an adverb is used after a linking verb. The rule say it should be an adjective. – user2747502 – 2014-04-03T12:41:42.577

@user2747502 Ah, change the question title and describe in it. This mislead me :( – Maulik V – 2014-04-03T12:43:26.227


It rocks! When we generally go by rules, we have to accept some exceptions to them. Using adverbial complements for linking verbs is yet another example for this exception. Normally it goes by written rules. But, when we ask question like 'where?', we have no other option than giving an adverb as answer.

For example, if anyone asks, 'Where is she?', you cannot answer, 'She is pretty' or 'She is a student'. Here, you have to tell where she is. To express her location, you have to use an adverb or adverbials (as we all know, adverbs only can be the answer for such questions). Hence, the answer could be 'She is in New Delhi' or 'She is on the upstairs' or ' She is in the next room' and so on.

I hope it's clear.


Posted 2014-04-03T12:18:51.030

Reputation: 1