"sometimes" is adjective or adverb


In this sentence:

The sometimes patronizing, often demeaning portrayal of women—even supposedly liberated women—remained, though often clandestine or packaged in the language of liberation.

I think the sometimes is in the position of adjective, but in dictionary I couldn't find sometimes as adjective. what is the meaning of sometimes in this sentence as adjective?


An adverb can emerge in the noun phrase as same as this sentence?

The downloadable document is here. (page 51, first paragaraph)

Arash Mousavi

Posted 2014-09-11T20:33:48.047

Reputation: 187



Actually, in this example, patronizing is the adjective. Sometimes is (and always will be) an adverb. Allow me to explain.

Patronizing is the present participle form of the verb patronize. Using the present participle turns a verb into an adjective. In this case, patronizing is being used as an adjective to describe the portrayal of women.

Sometimes is being used to modify patronizing. So what part of speech is it? Well, it is being used to modify patronizing, which, even though it serves the function of an adjective, is still a verb by nature. A word that modifies a verb is an adverb.

So we can come to this conclusion from two directions:

  1. By definition, sometimes is an adverb.
  2. Sometimes is being used to modify a verb, patronizing. Therefore it is an adverb.


Posted 2014-09-11T20:33:48.047

Reputation: 1 144

4While this answer is correct, I believe some of your reasoning is not. Sometimes is not modifying a verb, it is modifying an adjective. A word that modifies an adjective is also an adverb. Just because the root form (patronize) is a verb does not mean it is always modified by an adverb. For example, if patronizing was a gerund, you would modify it with adjectives: "I always hated their annoying patronizing." – Alexis King – 2014-09-12T03:45:02.787

1What @JakeKing said. To put it another way, sometimes would have the same part of speech if you replaced "patronizing" with, say, "blue". (The sentence wouldn't make much sense, but the grammar wouldn't change.) – Martha – 2014-09-12T04:43:23.177

@JakeKing I hear what you're saying, but it doesn't change the answer in any way. By definition, a participle is the form of a verb that plays the role of an adjective. In my answer, I recognized that patronizing is both a verb and an adjective. Yes, it is true that adverbs can modify both verbs and adjectives. So the end result is the same, sometimes is an adverb, regardless of whether you want to see patronizing as an adjective or a verb. I could have written all of that in the answer, but it would have done no good, and caused more confusion.

– Egghead99 – 2014-09-12T06:37:39.653

@Egghead99 You said this: "Well, it is being used to modify patronizing, which, even though it serves the function of an adjective, is still a verb by nature." (emphasis mine) That is the part that I disagree with. The word patronizing is not a verb, it is an adjective. It's derived from a verb, but that does not change its part of speech. – Alexis King – 2014-09-12T07:09:14.380

@Egghead99 Again, note that Wikipedia describes a gerund as "a non-finite verb form," but a gerund is a noun, and you use adjectives to describe nouns, not adverbs. The relevant piece of information is the functional part of speech, not the word's derivation.

– Alexis King – 2014-09-12T07:14:12.640

@JakeKing What you said is technically true, but I still believe that it's outside the scope of the OP's question and therefore outside the scope of the answer. In OP's example, patronizing is a participle, not a gerund. Remember that we're in English Language Learners. Many of our question askers are just starting to grasp the language, so we should try to frame our answers in a way that easy to understand for beginners, not bog them down with details and nuances. If you still feel strongly about it, please either suggest an edit, or we can get a chat room and hash one out. – Egghead99 – 2014-09-12T19:14:40.580


Are you sure that sentence is punctuated as in the original source? I would have expected it to be written as:

The sometimes-patronizing, often-demeaning portrayal...

Sometimes is being used as an adverb here, because it's modifying "patronizing" (which is itself being used as a modifier: it describes the type of portrayal). I am used to seeing this with a hyphen when used in series with another adverb-of-frequency like "often", but it isn't required when used individually. (Here's some examples).


Posted 2014-09-11T20:33:48.047

Reputation: 3 280

I added source document, I double checked and my punctuation is as same as original punctuation. – Arash Mousavi – 2014-09-11T21:05:49.573

3I'd say that the hyphens are optional but the comma after "patronizing" is definitely needed. – David Richerby – 2014-09-11T22:09:10.747


As other answers have noted, "sometimes" is used as an adverb in the cited text. It may be worth noting, however, that many because many nouns are sometimes used as adjectives and not all uses are noted, "sometimes" may be sometimes be used to modify things which look like nouns but really aren't. For example, one may refer to a cafeteria's "sometimes-beef, sometimes-pork, mystery-meat pies" [both "beef" and "pork" would be adjectives in that sentence, modifying "pies", so "sometimes" would be an adverb even though it would appear to be modifying nouns.

Additionally, it's worth noting that "sometime" may be legitimately used as an adjective, and that use of "sometimes" in the same fashion, whether legitimate or not, is hardly unknown.


Posted 2014-09-11T20:33:48.047

Reputation: 585