I came across a sentence where a modifier seemed to be modifying an possessive adjective. These are not the same sentences but they work similarly (the article's and adjectives I'm wondering about are in italic and bold respectively:

  • "The teacher's exam is hard"
  • "A man's hat fell off the bridge"

I think you see what I mean. If the article is not modifying the adjective what is it modifying. Also what about something like this:

  • "A tall man's hat fell off the bridge"
  • "The fat cat's bowl is empty"

If anyone knows the answer please let me know.

  • have you looked in any grammar book or online?
    – fev
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 19:39
  • Articles are not modifiers. They almost always function as determiners, where they mark a noun phrase as definite or indefinite. In, for example, "The fat cat's bowl is empty", "the" determines the noun phrase "the fat cat's bowl" as definite.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 19:49
  • @fev I couldn't find anything online and my grammar book did not address this.
    – Silas Dyck
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


enter image description here

A tree diagram of a basic noun phrase.

  • I think I understand that. Would you be able to show how one of the examples I used (or something similar) is diagrammed using the Reed–Kellogg system
    – Silas Dyck
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 19:01
  • @SilasDyck Sorry, but I know nothing about the Reed-Kellogg system, except that is out-of-date and very poorly regarded. I could draw a tree of one of your genitive (possessive) examples, but it would be the same kind of tree I drew earlier.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 19:06
  • Ok, I wasn't aware that the Reed-Kellogg system was out of date. When I google "sentence diagramming" that's the style of diagramming that comes up. Thanks for all the patient help.
    – Silas Dyck
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 21:36

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