Consider the sentence:

People of all ages enjoy swimming.

Here the solution says that the modifier is "of all ages". I want to understand why is "enjoy" not a modifier in the above sentence.

  • 1
    Because it's the predicate. If it were a modifier, you wouldn't have a sentence. – ЯegDwight Sep 19 '18 at 21:39
  • Why do you think enjoy might be a modifier here? What do you think it modifies? – The Photon Sep 19 '18 at 21:39
  • "Of all ages" modifies "people". "Enjoy" is a verb, so it can hardly be a modifier! – BillJ Sep 20 '18 at 9:20

At the core of all sentences are nouns and verbs. Traditionally, nouns can be ‘qualified’ (generally by adjectives or adjective phrases). But they can be ‘modified’ by adverbial phrases: for example, “the woman outside Nero’s”.

Nouns cannot qualify anything. They are ‘quafilyees’. Well, for quite some time now, nouns are increasingly being used as if they were adjectives. We speak of a ‘hat shop’ or ‘school day’. So you could say that a noun could qualify another noun. Though we normally think of ‘hat’ and ‘school, as nouns, they can be used as if they were adjectives. This can happen. So, if asked what part of speech ‘green’ is, I would say ‘adjective’. But the ‘green’ in ‘bowling green’ is serving as a noun.

That does not convert nouns into fully-fledged adjectives, of course. They do not acquire comparatives or superlatives, for example. They tend to classify rather than ‘describe’ the nouns they qualify (or perhaps we should say ‘modify’).

So what about a verb: the other core element of a sentence? The old fashioned rule is that verbs are modified by adverbs (or by adverbial phrases). They always have a subject and (unless they are either passive or intransitive) an object. These do not modify the verb itself, because they do not alter in any way how the verb itself is understood. Cooking is still just cooking, whoever cooks and whatever s/he cooks. To modify, we talk about how or with what or for how long (etc...) s/he cooks.

Or is it not so simple? Some parts of verbs can be modifiers. After all,

the English language is frighteningly complicated.

There: an adverb, formed from the verb ‘frighten’. So it can modify another verb.

As you see, the adverb frighteningly is formed in the usual way from the adjective frightening, formed from the verb frighten, as before. This time, the adverbial and adjectival forms behave just like other qualifiers and modifiers. Things can be more or less frightening, and can happen more or less frighteningly.

There are other such verb forms: frightenable, for example.

Now someone might say that I am cheating: that these forms are not forms of the verb itself when it is acting as a verb with at least a subject. So the rule has to be restated to exclude these forms, by stipulating that they are real adjectives (or adverbs) formed from verbs; or that verbs cannot modify (or qualify)except when they are participles or so-called gerunds .

From your point of view, you can treat the rule as a valid one in the sense that verbs that perform the key role of verbs in constructing a sentence cannot themselves be modifiers.


Enjoy is the verb in the sentence.

Swimming is a gerund, a noun made from a verb. It's the thing the people enjoy.

Since enjoy is the verb here, it isn't considered a modifier.


People of all ages enjoy swimming.

In the above sentence, the (prepositional) phrase of all ages modifies the People who enjoy swimming. Therefore, enjoy is not the part of the modifier. However, there are cases when a verb is used in a phrase that works as a modifier. For example;

In all ages, there are people who enjoy swimming.

  • 1
    Your closing example adopts an interesting interpretation of the word ages, taking 'age' to mean 'era' (bronze age, the middle ages, the modern age, etc) instead of an individual's 'calendar' age (how old someone is). – Lawrence Sep 19 '18 at 22:41
  • This is not correct. “Who enjoy swimming” is a relative clause, not a phrase. – Tuffy Sep 21 '18 at 0:02

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