I'm trying to teach my 7 year old daughter English and am clearly failing given I'm asking a question here.

The following sentence has me a little baffled in regards to the noun, verb and adverb.

My sister plays at home

If it were

My sister plays outside

Then I know the noun (well, noun phrase) is My sister, the verb is plays and the adverb is outside.

In the case of My sister plays at home, it could there are 2 nouns. Both Sister and home could be nouns, but given the sentence structure, I feel only sister is the noun.

So, given the sentence My sister plays at home, I think the noun phrase is My sister, the verb is plays and the adverb is at home.

Is this correct?

  • Look up "prepositional phrase".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 9, 2020 at 15:08
  • So it's an adverbial phrase? @HotLicks
    – MyDaftQuestions
    Feb 9, 2020 at 15:10
  • @HotLicks it’s not a prepositional phrase (PP), if outside is followed by a noun, it’s a PP “outside the house” etc. If it’s by itself and doesn’t follow a noun, it’s an adverb. Source
    – aesking
    Feb 9, 2020 at 16:01
  • 2
    It's a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb to answer the question of where for the verb: plays where? plays at home. (At least that's close enough, for a seven-year-old's purposes.)
    – Tinfoil Hat
    Feb 9, 2020 at 18:00
  • 2
    Why would you teach a 7 year old grammar at this level? It's unnecessary to be able to speak fluently. In fact, I'd say it's a hindrance. Most 7 year old native speakers know little to no grammatical theory.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 9, 2020 at 22:38

1 Answer 1



My sister [S] plays [Intransitive Verb] at home [Prepositional phrase (PP) functioning as an adverbial phrase]

There is no direct object as “at home” is not the direct object of “plays”

So what you have here is the PP “at home” is functioning as an adverbial phrase (note: the difference between adverb and adverbial phrase) to describe the adverb of location (Where? = at home).

“home” is the object of the preposition of “at” and does not receive the action of the verb.

“At home” can also be analysed as prepositional phrases which act as verb-phrase complements (by some grammars, especially CaGEL p. 54: Complements with the form of PPs, which class it as a “non-core complement”) to the verb:

  • He never abides by the rules.
  • She contributed to the project.
  • I disagree with your analysis.
  • Mothers sometimes gripe at their children.
  • The council objects to your hostility.

A/N: They are complements because the complement clause (CC) are selected by their verb and without the CC in the sentence above; they are rendered ungrammatical.

Furthermore as stated by @BillJ here, “complements of prepositions are not direct or indirect objects”.

Source: https://parentingpatch.com/using-prepositional-phrases-verb-phrase-complements/

While, in:

My sister [S] plays [I.V.] outside [adverb]

The verb “plays” is intransitive, outside is a locative adverb. “Outside” is not the direct object of “plays”.

Where play has a direct object:

  • Play baseball
  • Playing children
  • Children playing house
  • Playing a trick.
  • << “At home” can also be analysed as prepositional phrases which act as verb-phrase complements to the verb: He never abides by the rules.... >> // There is no complement in 'My sister paints at home', and you need to explain why you think 'My sister plays at home' may have a different deep structure (if what you're trying to say here is what I think it is). Feb 9, 2020 at 18:02
  • @EdwinAshworth According to CaGEL, “My sister paints/plays at home” - at home is a non-core complement. I prefer to make a distinction between complements and adjuncts, but even the definition of complements is problematic: “a word, phrase, or clause that is necessary to complete the meaning of a given expression.[1] Complements are often also arguments (expressions that help complete the meaning of a predicate)”[2]. The first sense states it’s obligatory for meaning while the second sense states they’re obligatory for grammaticalness.
    – aesking
    Feb 9, 2020 at 19:01
  • Another example: We call Rachelle the boss - (the boss) Predicative nominal as object complement. Personally I would classify “the boss” as an adjunct as “We call Rachelle” is technically grammatical but semantically incomplete. However it is clear that there are some grammarians that would call this a complement. And adjuncts and complements are often very hard to distinguish by grammarians in general. I guess the billion dollar question is: what’s the difference between a non-core complement and adjunct? But that’s a different Q.
    – aesking
    Feb 9, 2020 at 19:13
  • [...] Though, I have asked how to distinguish between core and non-core complements on here.
    – aesking
    Feb 9, 2020 at 19:15
  • 1
    You need to tighten up the << quote >> I gave; it doesn't make sense. // CGEL has (p 680, reformatted & adjusted) ' Location: Location elements can be complements or adjuncts: ... (iiia')(COMP) the accident occurred [at home] / (iiib)(ADJ) I read the report at home'. Obviously, the test they use is 'Does the sentence without the element in question sound natural?' With my examples, 'My sister paints' sounds natural whereas 'My sister plays' sounds unnatural without artificial licensing context. Feb 9, 2020 at 20:00

You must log in to answer this question.