I'm having trouble identifying/breaking down the components of an example under Adverb Prepositional Phrases in McGraw-Hill's English and Grammar Usage book.

Here's the example with the Adv. PP italicized as shown in the book.

We all went to a movie after dinner

Then what type of component is "to a movie" if it's not an Adv. PP? Is it a complement?

  • I'd say it's a prepositional phrase functioning as a locative complement. I don't know what they mean by 'Adv. PP'. Also, Adv. an abbreviation for adverb or adverbial? – user178049 Sep 26 '17 at 3:48
  • @user178049 Adverb Prepositional Phrase. This is an example of that phrase being used to modify a verb. – iSwam2u Sep 26 '17 at 4:07
  • IMO, you shouldn't regard that as a good grammar reference, though it may be a good guide to writing. 'Adverb PP' is a weird term since adverbs and prepositional phrases are two different things; they both can function as an adverbial, however. to a movie is a locative complement, I think, but I'm not sure. Lemme figure it out. – user178049 Sep 26 '17 at 4:11

We all went to a movie after dinner.

"To a movie" and "after dinner" are PPs (preposition phrases) whose heads are "to" and "after" respectively.

"To a movie" is not a modifier, but a complement since it has to be licensed by the verb "went". By contrast, "after dinner" qualifies as an modifier (an adjunct) because it does not have to be licensed by the verb.

It is important to make the distinction between category (part of speech) and function. Categories are noun, verb, adjective, adverb etc., and functions are subject, object, modifier, complement etc. I strongly recommend you use the term 'adjunct' instead of 'adverbial'.


to a movie is a prepositional phrase consists of the preposition to together with a noun movie


It's not a compliment as I remember McGraw-Hill using the term.  Even if it is, that doesn't change a thing. 

This is an interesting example, since the marked phrase seems as likely to be adjectival as adverbial.  Both "went after dinner" and "a movie after dinner" are plausible coherent phrases, and "a movie" is closer to "after dinner" than "went".  Given that McGraw-Hill marks "after dinner" as adverbial, it must regard that phrase to represent the time of going, rather than the time of the movie. 

Whether you regard the complete phrase as "to a movie" or "to a movie after dinner", the phrase starting with "to" modifies "went".  There is no other available role for it to take.  Modifying a verb, it is adverbial. 

Unless it is specifically stated that every adverbial prepositional phrase is marked, you shouldn't be surprised.  Every prepositional phrase can be labeled either adjectival or adverbial, depending on what it modifies.  Even proper complements, if prepositional, can be saddled with one label or the other.

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