Like numerous other kinds of adjunct, predicatives may be integrated into the structure as modifies, or detached, as supplements:

i They left empty-handed. [modifier]

ii Angry at this deception, Kim stormed out of the room. [supplement]

The supplements are positionally mobile and are set apart prosodically. The modifiers are of course like the complements, especially in cases where they occur very frequently with a particular verb, as with leave in [i], die in He died young, bear in the passive He was born rich, and so on.

–– The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p.263

Why is the predicative, empty-handed, in [i] classified into modifires? Is it mean though the predicative is oriented towards they [= predicand], empty-handed modifies left?

Or is it a modifier modifying the subject, they?

  • 1
    Adjuncts - integrated (like modifiers of the verb or VP) or not (like supplements) - do not modify nouns.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 21:52
  • This type of advanced question is ideally suited for, english.stackexchange.com.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 23:15

1 Answer 1


I once ran into a similar problem too. In my case, it was "they catch him off guard".

The lesson I learned from that problem was to test if the word(s) in question is an adjunct, try removing it out of the sentence. If it is an adjunct, the sentence meaning will still remain roughly the same.

In your example, you can remove that "empty-handed", and the sentence still works.

They left [empty-handed].

This empty-handed indicates the way they left.

I researched into this "adjunct" definition a little deeper, and I found a similar discussion in this thread. After reading, I agree with their analysis:

She left the room angry. (modifier)
Angry, she left the room. (supplement)

and in their own words, according to CGEL, "supplements are not to be treated as syntactic constituent but as separate - supplementation construction".

PS. My explanation might not be 100% correct, grammatically speaking. (I still have to learn a lot more terminologies.) But from a learner point of view, I believe this will help seeing through the sentence structure quite neatly.

  • Then what about the supplement in [ii]? Understanding English Grammar, by Martha Kolln, says they modifiy the subject (p.150). From what respect, are the two different?
    – Listenever
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 12:13
  • That might be beyond my ability to analyze it according to grammar rules. But first, you can remove the "Angry at this deception" part without losing the meaning of the main sentence. Secondly, I understand it as: (Being) angry at this deception, Kim stormed out of the room, which allows me to see it the same way I see Angrily, Kim stormed out of the room. Hope this helps you a bit. Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 12:20
  • After I posted "(Being angry at this deception)" for a while, I got this intuition, which I believe is rather good. Perhaps when your grammar book says they modify the subject, the book might mean something similar to those simple sentences such as "He is big," or "She is angry." I'm not sure about the technical term, but it probably is "complement"? Anyway, I'm sure it is an adjective. Dissecting our sentence into "Kim was angry at this deception," and "Kim stormed out of the room," allows me to see why the book says angry at this deception modify the subject Kim. Do you agree? Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 12:32
  • @Listenever, I'm looking at p. 150 in Kolln and Funk 2012 and I can't find a passage where they supposedly say that "they modifiy [sic!] the subject."
    – Alex B.
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 22:02
  • @AlexB. "The participial phrase that modifies the subject can also be shifted to the end of the sentence: The students cheered noisily for the basketball team, standing up throughout the game" (2010,p.150)
    – Listenever
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 23:08

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