distinguishing between an adjective and adverb



Given the following, which is taken from here:

enter image description here

Here is my specific question:

I am wondering if the red parts in any context would be considered incorrect.

What is more are the following versions correct?

  1. Bill likes Sarah's singing jazz ballads beautifully.
  2. Bill likes Sarah's singing beautifully.


Posted 2015-01-02T13:15:19.377

Reputation: 5 551

nima, you have shared a really nice link. Even I learned a lot from that. I never saw these things that way. Though I didn't read the last post by David, and frankly couldn't understand whatever bit I read of that post, yet the rest was easily understandable. So I believe you came to know why those red coloured sentences are wrong. Now concentrate these two two sentences - *"Bill likes Sarah's signing jazz ballads beautifully"* and *"Bill likes Sarah's signing beautifully"*. Both are incorrect in that they don't convey the intended meaning. In both the sentences beautifully should – Man_From_India – 2015-01-02T13:50:23.530

(cont...) relate to the main verb like. But consider this sentence - *"I saw Adam's chopping onion carefully"*. This sentence has the same pattern as the sentence you suggested in your question. But this sentence - *"I saw Adam's chopping onion carefully"* - is not wrong, it is correct sentence, and the carefully, modifies the verb saw, not the verb chop – Man_From_India – 2015-01-02T13:54:19.740

As in that link it was clear that both *Sarah singing jazz* and *Sarah singing jazz* are correct. But I prefer the plain version - *Sarah singing the jazz*, and this version is found in everyday writing/speech. The other version with the possessive is more formal. But if that part - *Sarah/Sarah's singing jazz* - comes at the beginning of the sentence, the correct choice is possessive - *Sarah's singing jazz*. – Man_From_India – 2015-01-02T14:00:58.897



Bill likes Sarah's singing jazz ballads.

Sarah sings jazz ballads. Bill may hate the ballads themselves, but he likes that she sings them.

Bill likes Sarah's singing solo.

  1. Bill likes the solo that Sarah sings. Singing is an adjective modifying solo.
  2. Bill is happy that when Sarah sings, she is singing solo. Singing is a gerund, modified by solo.

Bill likes Sarah's beautiful singing jazz ballads.

For either verb or noun form uses of singing these are both wrong. Singing can be an (informal) adjective, however: Singing (music) Smooth and flowing. (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/singing#Adjective)

Example: Brian Sanborn's playing transcends guitar with his singing melodies and cloud-like chords. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22his+singing+melodies%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

With that definition, the sentence parses fine - Bill likes Sarah's ballads. Ballads is the object of the sentence, and is modified by two adjectives, beautiful and singing.

Idiomatically, however, it is a little awkward, and might not mean what you might think it means. Singing as an adjective meaning smooth is often used to modify instrumental play or melodic structure. Singing piano melodies are piano melodies that sounds like humans singing. For obvious reasons, it is not used to describe singing itself. (Her singing singing sounds just like a person singing?)

If Bill likes Sarah's singing ballads means something, it is that she is a trumpet* player whose ballads sound smooth and flowing - like singing - and Bill likes them.


Bill likes Sarah's beautiful singing solo.

Two possibilities here. Singing is an adjective either way.

  1. Bill likes the solo that Sarah sings.

  2. She is a trumpet player whose solos sound smooth and flowing - like singing - and Bill likes them.


Finally - I agree with what TRomano said in another answer. These are all very awkward constructions, and even though I can make grammatical sense of them, they don't sound natural.


Posted 2015-01-02T13:15:19.377

Reputation: 8 151


Bill likes Sarah's singing jazz ballads beautifully

Bill likes Sarah's singing beautifully

It should be pointed out that such statements would rarely, if ever, come from the mouth of a native speaker, so the question is "academic" whether they're grammatical or not.

A native (AmE) speaker would say:

Bill likes Sarah's beautiful singing.

Bill likes the way Sarah sings jazz ballads.

Bill likes how beautifully Sarah sings.


Posted 2015-01-02T13:15:19.377

Reputation: 116 610

Thanks for clarifying. That is why it sounded a bit awkward when I first read those sentences. But grammatically they are valid sentences, there is no denying :) – Man_From_India – 2015-01-03T02:35:07.733