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From The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English grammar and usage, 320p

Adjective prepositional phrases are prepositional phrases functioning as adjectives to modify nouns. For example, in the sentence The car in the driveway belongs to my aunt, the adjective prepositional phrase in the driveway modifies the noun car.

In the NP, "in the driveway" modifies the "the car". Like the preceding, in a structure level The car is in the driveway, can we say that the prepositional phrase "in the driveway" moidifies "the car", or does it modify a linking verb "is"?

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The car is in the driveway.

A prepositional phrase may be used as an adverb telling how, when, where, how much, and why and modifying the verb and sometimes an adjective.

In your sentence, in the driveway modifies* is telling where the car is parked.

*As @BillJ pointed out, it actually complements the verb to form a grammatically correct sentence.

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    "In the driveway" can't be a modifier. It is grammatically required to complete the verb phrase and hence must be a complement. Note that obligatory elements are always complements. – BillJ Mar 8 at 7:10
  • Thanks a lot. Whether [in the drive way] modifies [the car] or [is] has been bothering me. Thanks to you, I know that "the complement" of a linking verb modifies "the verb", not "the subject". – JYJ Mar 8 at 17:37
  • @JYJ No: complements are not modifiers -- modifier and complement are entirely different functions. "In the driveway" is a complement of "is". – BillJ Mar 8 at 17:46
  • @BillJ Thank you for your help. But, when it comes to this problem, I should think you have opinions different from the main theories of syntax. You seem to mean that we can't say "a complement modifies what." You can google the sentence "The ugly man from Brazil found books of poems in the puddle" According to X-bar theory, they(many linguists) identify what modifies or relates to what, and whether that modification is as an adjunct, complement, or specifier (they say we have to determine whether the modifier is a complement, adjunct, or specifier). That's why I quoted the passage from that. – JYJ Mar 8 at 18:18
  • Enfin, [the] modifies [driveway] as a specifier. [the driveway] modifies [in] as a complement. [in the driveway] modifies [is] as a complement. – JYJ Mar 8 at 19:19
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[1] The car in the driveway belongs to my aunt.

[2] The car is in the driveway.

Preliminary point: we don't talk of ‘adjective prepositional phrases’. Adjective and preposition are two distinct word categories (parts of speech) that have their own functions such as a modifier or complement.

In [1], the expression “in the driveway” is a preposition phrase functioning as modifier of "car". It ascribes to "car" the property of being "in the driveway".

In [2] things are slightly different. Here the PP is not a modifier but a locative complement of "is". It must a complement because it’s omission would render the sentence ungrammatical.

Note than obligatory elements are always complements: they are required to complete the verb phrase.

  • It seems to me that the statement the PP is a locative complement of "is" denotes the PP modifies "is", not "the car". I learnt the difference between "a modifier" and "a complement". But, It's been bothering me whether "the complement" of a linking verb modifies the subject or the verb to complete the meaning of the sentence. – JYJ Mar 8 at 17:08
  • From Syntax: A generative Introduction By Andrew Carnie. 6.2 A Sample Tree..[The1 ugly man from Brazil found books of poems in the2 puddle.] Next, and most importantly, we have to identify what modifies or relates to what, and whether that modification is as an adjunct, complement, or specifier. This is perhaps the most difficult and tedious step, but it is also the most important. You will get better at this with practice. You can use the tests we developed above (stacking, coordination, etc) to determine whether the modifier is a complement, adjunct, or specifier. – JYJ Mar 8 at 17:24
  • [the1] modifies [man] as a specifier. [ugly] modifies [man] as an adjunct. [Brazil] modifies [from] as a complement. [from Brazil] modifies [man] as an adjunct. [Poems] modifies [of] as a complement. [of Poems] modifies [books] as a complement. [books of poems] modifies [found] as a complement. [the2] modifies [puddle] as a specifier. [the puddle] modifies [in] as a complement. [in the puddle] modifies [found] as an adjunct. – JYJ Mar 8 at 17:30
  • @JYJ Why are you quoting this stuff to me. I gave you your answer. – BillJ Mar 8 at 17:49
  • Based on your knowledge/theories, we can't say [books of poems] modifies [found] as a complement in the sentence "The ugly man from Brazil found books of poems in the puddle". But, the syntax book says that. The author of the book, Andrew Carnie (Ph.D. in Linguistics, MIT / a Canadian professor of linguistics) I'm not sure that you are wrong, but I'm sure that you have different opinions from many other linguists/grammarians when it comes to this problem. Syntax books apart from that say/describe 'X modifies Y" (the modifier can be a complement, adjunct, or specifier) – JYJ Mar 8 at 18:48

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