Last Thoughts on “…serious bodily injury accident…”

Margie Wakeman Wells General Leave a Comment

When this question was first posted on FB, there was a lot of adjective/adverb conversation about the word “bodily.”

An adjective answers “Which one?” or “What?” about the noun or pronoun it modifies; an adverb answers “When?” “Where?” “Why?” or “How?” — and a few extensions of these questions — about the verb, adjective, or other adverb it modifies.

In this example, “injury” is acting as an adjective to modify the noun “accident.” It answers “What accident?” And though it may seem logical that “bodily” is now an adverb modifying the adjective “injury,” there is no way that “bodily” answers any one of those adverb questions. It is not a “When injury?” et cetera.

In reality, we are looking at a very common English pattern. “Injury” is a noun by nature. Most nouns in English can be used as adjective modifiers. In this case, that is what is happening here. “Injury” is telling us “Which accident?”

However, “bodily” is NOT an adverb. It doesn’t fit the bill as an adverb. It is an adjective modifying the NOUN QUALITY of the word “injury.” “Bodily” is still answering “What injury?” Though “injury” is acting as an adjective, it retains its noun qualities, one of which is to be modified by an adjective.

In “elementary school student,” “elementary” is telling us “Which school?” and is therefore an adjective even though “school” is an adjective that modifies “student.” “Elementary” is modifying the noun quality of the word “school.”

“Reading” is a form that comes from a verb and can be part of the verb.

…She is reading a good book…
…I have been reading about that…

However, “reading” can also be used as a noun (a verbal that is called a “gerund”). As such, the word “reading” has this dual nature. It has verb qualities as well as noun qualities.

In the sentence

…Reading in bed is fun…

“in bed” is an adverb telling “Where?” and modifies the verb qualities of “reading”; “fun” is an adjective telling “What reading?” and modifies the noun qualities of “reading,” which is functioning as the subject of the sentence.

We could go on and on. That words have a “dual nature” is one of the things that makes English so fascinating! 🙂

Happy punctuating!

Margie

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