Apologies for the long question. I will request if someone can please answer this thoroughly as it will help me put a lot of pieces of grammatical puzzle together.

If possible, please answer only using basic terms such as noun, verb, adverb, adjective etc. Please don't use any advanced terms as much as possible.

I need help in correctly identifying the parts of the following sentence.

Although the ballerina seems healthy, she feels very unwell and is unlikely to dance well at tonight's performance.

First part of the sentence,

Although the ballerina seems healthy,

is a subordinate clause whose main subject is 'The ballerina' and main verb is 'seems' which is basically the linking verb for the adjective 'healthy'???

Q1. The adjective 'healthy' appears to be describing 'How does ballerina seem ?','She seems healthy'. I know that adjectives can not modify verbs so it must be modifying 'ballerina' but I am confused as to how is it explaining 'ballerina' ? Why can it not be an adverb modifying seems ?

In the other part of the sentence,

she feels very unwell and is unlikely to dance well at tonight's performance.

Q2. Same question applies to 'very unwell', 'feels' and 'she'. Most likely, 'very unwell'is an adjective modifying 'she' but I don't really get why it isn't modifying 'feels', as in,'How does she feel?', 'She feels very unwell'.

Q3. By same principle (which I don't understand)most likely 'unlikely' is an adjective. Why can't 'unlikely' be an adverb ?

Q4. If 'unlikely' is an adjective, is the phrase 'to dance well at tonight's performance.' an adverbial phrase describing unlikely or is it a noun phrase (object) of 'unlikely' ?

breaking the last part further,

to dance well at tonight's performance.

Q5. To dance is an infinitive behaving as a noun object ? (Q4) and 'well' is an adjective describing 'how is she unlikely to dance ?', 'She is unlikely to dance well' or what ?


  • 1
    Is this a homework assignment? – BillJ Jan 12 '19 at 18:01
  • @BillJ Nope. Studying for GMAT SC. – Ahmad R. Jan 12 '19 at 18:44

Although the ballerina seems healthy, she feels very unwell and is unlikely to dance well at tonight's performance.

"Although the ballerina seems healthy" is usually seen as a subordinate clause.

The adjective “healthy” relates to, but does not modify, the subject “the ballerina”. It can't be an adverb because it is not modifying the verb "seem", but describing the subject. Functionally, it's called a 'predicative complement' of "seem".

In the main clause, "unwell" is also an adjective that relates to, but does not modify, the subject "she". It is a predicative complement of "feel", in the same way that "healthy" is of "seem".

“Unlikely” is an adjective serving as head of the adjective phrase “unlikely to dance well …”. The phrase relates to the subject "she" (i.e. "the ballerina"), and is a predicative complement of "feel" in the same way that "unwell" is.

The infinitival clause “to dance well …” is complement (not modifier) of “unlikely”, and “well” is an adverb modifying “dance”.


First the basics: Adjectives qualify while adverbs modifiy; adjectives are for nouns or pronouns; adverbs are mostly for verbs, adjectives or adverbs; adjectives have restricted mobility but adverbs, to some extent, free mobility in a sentence; all '— ly' ending words are not adverbs, and last but not the least verbs like " look, seem, appear, feel" are linking verbs like BE , not action verbs— acid test? replace them with BE, You will be your own judge.

  • Although the ballerina seems healthy, /she feels very unwell )and )/is unlikely to dance well at tonight's performance./

It is a compound sentence with two co-ordinate clauses and one subordinate clause.

Q1. Right that it is an adverb clause but the adjective (healthy) therein refers to the bellerina. We may give the clause another orientation : it seems that the bellerina is healthy. It is a predicative use of adjectives, others being post positive and attributive uses.

Q2. Unwell is an adjective modified by 'very' , an adverb. Read the sentence for our convenience as 'she feels that she is very unwell.'

Q 3&4. Unlikely is an adjective. Learn English of British council.org tells us that to-infinitive, like adverb,gives a reason for the adjective. And in their list of other adjectives with the to-infinitive, UNLIKELY is mentioned amongst others. So the infinitive is functioning as an adverb. "Well" is an adverb modifying 'to dance'. Whatever function they serve, infinitives can be modified by adverbs since they are born out of verbs.

I know little of modern parsing and tree concept. BillJ has provided an excellent analysis.


As you read the introductory subordinate clause, does the good health belong to the action or state of seeming? 

As I read the sentence, it can't.  It's the ballerina's good health, even if it is only an illusion of the ballerina's good health.  She's an apparently healthy ballerina.  I can't even imagine what it might mean for the state of good health to belong to the state of seeming. 

I can see that you're using "What answers the question of how?" as a test for what counts as an adverbial modifier.  When applied to a transitive verb, it's a reasonable test.  How does she dance?  She dances quickly.  She dances skillfully.  She dances gracefully.  She dances with a style all her own

When applied to a copular verb, the question of how has a different meaning.  How is she?  Answers like quickly, skillfully and gracefully simply don't make sense here.  Instead, she's fine, she's healthy and she's happy become sensible answers. 

She feels healthy.
She quickly feels the wall.

The meaning of the question "how does she feel" is not always the same.  It has not merely a different answer but a different kind of answer for each of the two sentences above. 

Finally, verbs and prepositions license objects.  "Unlikely" is just an adjective.  It doesn't license an object.  The infinitive phrase in "unlikely to dance well" does not behave like a noun or like an object.  It's just a modifier. 

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