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What happened next offered an astonishing lesson in developing an emotionally charged event.

What does the PP go with, does it act as an ADJ to add extra information to the noun lesson,

or does it act as an ADV to add information to the verb offered?

2 Answers 2

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One might say that it is adding information to the noun lesson. Grammatically, syntactically, that's what it's doing. It is an adjectival phrase applied to that noun.

However, it's actually much more important to the meaning of the sentence than the word lesson.

It might be rephrased as

What happened next was astonishing, and taught a lot about developing an emotionally charged event.

So, yes, it's an adjectival phrase, but don't let that minimise its semantic importance.

You might or might not already appreciate this, but for the benefit of other site users, I just wanted to point out how this is a very good example that sometimes the principal verb (here offered), and subject and object nouns, contribute a lot less to the substance of a sentence than a prepositional phrase, an adverbial, or various other less-grammatically-essential elements.

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  • thank you:) but if I change the sentence to "He offered an astonishing lesson in class ". The sentence structure is the same, but this time, PP in class would be applied to the verb offered, what caused the difference?
    – Peilin
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 4:48
  • The semantics - it makes more sense applied to "offered" in that case. Though, depending on context, it could still be applied to "lesson".
    – SamBC
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 8:35
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What happened next offered an astonishing lesson [in developing an emotionally charged event].

No, the bracketed PP does not function as an AdjP, but as complement of "lesson". We know that the PP is construction with "lesson" since the whole NP forms a constituent, compare [an astonishing lesson in developing an emotionally charged event] was offered by what happened next, where the bracketed NP is subject.

The head of the PP is "in", which has the gerund-participial clause "developing an emotionally charged event" as its complement.

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  • Thank you :) but if the sentence is changed to "He offered an astonishing lesson in class" The sentence structure is the same, but the PP in class would be an complement of the verb offered , what caused the difference ? And is there a way to make a distinction .
    – Peilin
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 4:51
  • @Peilin No, that is different. The NP object is just "an astonishing lesson", and the PP "in class" is a locative adjunct in clause structure. The difference is that "in class" refers to "offered" -- the PP expresses where the offer was made, or where it would be fulfilled. By contrast, the PP "in developing an emotionally charged event" adds meaning to the noun "lesson". Note also that the PP is licensed (specifically required/permitted) by the head word "lesson". Adjuncts do not have to be licensed this way.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 7:56

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