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Adjective or verb?

Discussion in 'English' started by wasteland, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    Hope someone can please help me. I came across this sentence in a document called 'The National Strategies - Grammar for reading and writing':

    'The man was heavily disguised.'

    Now, I thought that the word 'disguised' in this sentence was a verb. But in the document, the word 'disguised' is called an adjective. I am stumped. I thought 'disguise' could only be a verb and a noun? But this document I am referring to is a Government document. Can someone please enlighten me?

    I am really struggling to find clear rules to help pupils distinguish between verbs and adjectives. I thought I had it cracked and then I came across this sentence!.
  2. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    I understand that the past participle of 'disguise' can be an adjective - 'The disguised man walked away from me.' But is it an adjective in the sentence 'The man was disguised.'?
  3. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    It's a verb. The adverb gives it away.
  4. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    It's a verb. The adverb gives it away.

    Not really. Adverbs can modify adjectives. "She was heavily pregnant." I would say that the adverb here ("heavily") makes "disguised" actually seem more adjectival than if you had simply "The man was disguised".

    Verb/adjective is sometimes not a clear cut distinction (so wasteland can never "have it cracked") and some grammars do refer to forms as "participial adjectives".

    Here's a snippet:

    In some contexts the status of a participle-like form is ambiguous. Thus "I was annoyed" can be interpreted verbally (e.g. I was annoyed by their behaviour) or as an adjective (e.g. I was very annoyed), or perhaps even as both (I was very annoyed by their behaviour)."

    I am surprised that the government document just said "adjective" because "disguised" here isn't an adjective in every way. I suppose it is simplifying on purpose.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015
  5. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    Thank you Markuss. I was hoping you would reply and share your expertise. I often find it hard to distinguish between verbs and adjectives in sentences like 'He was ...'.

    In the sentence 'He was mesmerised' is the word mesmerised a verb or an adjective? Or for that matter, 'entranced' and 'bewitched'? Although they are all verbs, if I were to read all three words in this was (and without checking the dictionary), I would have said they were adjectives. Confusingly, the word 'charm' is an adjective, and yet I thought you could 'charm' a person?

    Thanks Markuss.
  6. wasteland

    wasteland New commenter

    *in this way
  7. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    See, I knew a proper grammarian would be along to show me up.
  8. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    "mesmerise", "bewitch", and "entrance" are all verbs.

    "mesmerised", "bewitched", and "entranced" are all past participial forms of verbs.

    In something like "the mesmerised/bewitched/entranced woman", the position of the participle is the adjectival position and you could call the "-ed" a participial adjective. That's better than just calling it an adjective because if it were a simple adjective, then you'd be comfortable with the adverb "very" being inserted.

    "The very mesmerised woman" ??? (possible?)

    Also, comparative and superlatives are awkward.

    "The more/most mesmerised woman" ??? (but possible).

    Present participles (having the "-ing" form) can also be participial adjectives - "the bewitching/entrancing/mesmerising/charming person and these seem more like adjectives because of the ease with which you can insert "more" / "most" and "very".

    "He was charming." - the "-ing" word still seems participial adjectival (and you could modify with an adverb - "He was absolutely charming") unlike in "He was charming the snake", where there is no sense of an adjective at all.

    So, it isn't easy! (And btw, making it seem easy by talking about "describing" or "doing" is no use at all in grammar.)
  9. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    "Charm - charming - charmed" - so "charm" can function as a verb with past/present tense forms.

    "One charm - many charms" - so "charm" can function as a noun with changes in number forms.

    "A charm offensive" - although in the position where you'd expect an adjective "charm" is still a noun, I'd say.

    No "charm" doesn't function as adjective but "charming" can be a participial adjective.
  10. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Grammar just isn't simple. It's like chemistry - but harder because language is so fluid. Also, there is not one universally accepted way of describing the syntax of different languages.
    Catherine-A and thinky like this.

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