I am having a difficulty parsing the following sentence extracted from a Cambridge IELTS reading passage.

It has been noted by teachers that children engaging in active travel arrive at school more alert and ready to learn.

For the that-clause:

  • subject: children engaging in active travel
  • verb: arrive
  • adverb: at school

Why can "more alert and ready to learn" be placed at the end of the sentence? Which type of grammar is it?

Normally I would write this sentence like below:

It has been noted by teachers that children engaging in active travel are more alert and ready to learn when arriving at school.

  • 1
    They, children, hurry to school and arrive being more alert and ready to learn. And in your variant when acts like while and indicaticates that they are more alert and ready to learn only during their arrival. Apr 22, 2017 at 8:04
  • 1
    Your second sentence us different from the first.The first sentence has a point, yours should be once (when) they arrive at school Apr 22, 2017 at 8:06
  • 1
    "more alert and ready to learn" is an adverb phrase. It describes "how" the children arrive. So it is a modifier to the verb. To understand it better try to substitute it with the adverb "early". Then try " on time". Then you will have a complete understanding of it. take a look at this: examples.yourdictionary.com/adverb-phrase-examples.html
    – M K
    Apr 22, 2017 at 8:15
  • Thank you all for your comment. @MK, I agree that it is a modifier to the verb. But I'm still not clear why the adverb phrase contains only adjectives. Would "more alertly and readily to learn" be equal to "more alert and ready to learn"?
    – Rocherlee
    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:24
  • 2
    The adjectives are predicates with the children as subjects; the construction indicates the result of the arrival, not its manner. It's governed by arrive, a locative predicate like stay, which can also govern the construction: And the children stay more engaged and ready to learn, all day. Many of the locative verbs governing There-Insertion can govern this construction, in the right context. Apr 22, 2017 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


"Children engaging in active travel", while it is a verb phrase in the sense that it has a verb in it, with a subject and an object, is acting as a noun phrase. It is actually nearly equivalent to "children who engage in active travel", except that the use of the participle indicates that they are engaging in that travel around the time of the overall sentence.

Thus "children engaging..." is a noun phrase, and it acts as the subject for the verb arrive. They arrive at school, and the rest of the sentence is adjectival describing the state in which they arrive. That state is "more alert and ready to learn". It's just the same as saying "I arrived home tired" - I was tired when I arrived home.

We can surmise from the context and so forth that this is being presented as a causal relationship - that getting to school by engaging in active travel leads to being more alert, and more ready to learn. The comparator is obviously those children who do not engage in active travel.

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