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When she got into the car at five, ready for the fifteen-mile drive across London, it wouldn't start.

What does this stretch of language represent? Is it an adverbial?

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Sample sentence: When she got into the car at five, ready for the fifteen-mile drive across London, it wouldn't start.

The phrase describes what state or condition she was in. It is not a clause.

It functions like an appositive adjective, but is phrasal.

appositive adjective

An Appositive Adjective is a traditional grammatical term for an adjective (or a series of adjectives) that follows a noun and, like a nonrestrictive appositive, is set off by commas or dashes.

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    Thanks, which word does it modify then, please? I think it modifies "she", but it does not follow it directly, so I am confused. – Fox12 Dec 31 '18 at 17:34
  • @PetrKment Arguably, it could also be acting adverbially, describing how she got into the car ("in readiness for"). But it's ambiguous. (However, it acting adjectivally is more likely because of how it's constructed: "she was ready.") There is no reason why it can't modify her adjectivally—there's no rule that says something must come immediately after something else. – Jason Bassford Dec 31 '18 at 18:11
  • ready has to describe a person or state. An adjective does not modify a personal pronoun. You can't really say: a ready she. She was ready. – Lambie Jan 1 at 16:22
  • Well some adjectives can go strictly before nouns and some strictly after them, right? Adjectives can modify personal pronouns. In addition, "she" is a syntactic noun in this case, I believe. "Ready" is an adjective that can only follow the word it modifies, it cannot precede it. – Fox12 Jan 1 at 20:33
  • @PetrKment "I think it modifies she". There is no such thing. Why are you arguing about that? Adjectives do not modify these personal pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they. The phrase with ready is in apposition to: "she got into her car".It can also be a truncated and implied: She got into her car [and was] ready for x. There are several ways to look at it. In other words, an implied compound predicate. get into the car and be ready. – Lambie Jan 1 at 20:53
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Since OP mentions the fact that the phrase does not "follow...directly" the pronoun it appears to modify, consider the following:

Before she took a bite of the shoe, hungry as can be, she said grace.

Do not imagine yourself to be a naive parsing algorithm. Clearly any sane human being would know that shoes do not experience hunger (at least in this universe), and would understand that hungry as can be must modify she, not the shoe.

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When she got into the car at five, ready for the fifteen-mile drive across London, it wouldn't start.

The element in bold is a predicative adjunct: predicative because it refers to a predicand ("she") and an adjunct because it's an optional modifier in clause structure, i.e. it's part of the VP, not the subject NP "she".

I think it might be misleading to call it 'adverbial', though 'adjunct' is really just a more appropriate term for many of the items that traditional grammar calls 'adverbial'.

  • Since it implies [and she was ready], call it an adjunct but it's most definitely adjectival. – Lambie Jan 1 at 20:46
  • Of course it's an AdjP, that's why it qualifies as predicative. But it's located in the VP, not the subject NP, which is why it's called a predicative adjunct. I made that very clear in my answer. – BillJ Jan 1 at 20:56

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