People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gateway back to the Muggle world. (Harry Potter)

Is the phrase "back to the Muggle world" an adjective or adverbial one?

  • It's an adjectival phrase- It describes the gateway.
    – Jim
    Feb 21, 2013 at 2:52

2 Answers 2


It depends entirely on how you choose to interpret the sentence. Suppose I add a comma:

People jostled them as they moved forward toward the gateway, back to the Muggle world.

Then it seems pretty clear it's adverbially modifying moved.

Without the comma, it's pedantic to say back to the Muggle world can only be adjectivally modifying the gateway. No comma just makes that a possible (or likely, depending on your point of view) reading.

So the answer is - take you pick. It can be either (or both, if you're a "creative" reader).

  • Yours is what I was thinking about. But I couldn’t put down it, having worried to say silly nonsense. Now, I’m very pleased to be backed by good explanation.
    – Listenever
    Feb 21, 2013 at 3:45
  • And you gave me an idea that ‘back to the Muggle world’ can be thought as a complement for ‘they.’ Thank you.
    – Listenever
    Feb 21, 2013 at 3:53
  • 1
    @Listenever: I've no idea how you manage to see it as a "complement" for "they", but if it helps you to understand the sentence elements and their relationships, fill your boots. Me, I can only see an indirect relationship. Basically, they moved. The rest is just more details about that movement, not directly about them. Feb 21, 2013 at 4:00
  • 1
    ...if you're determined to find a "complement", you might consider as they moved forward toward the gateway, back to the Muggle world as a candidate, defining "them" in more detail. Feb 21, 2013 at 4:05
  • 2
    @Listenever: It's useful to distinguish adverb/adjective here because that governs whether BTTMW modifies moved or gateway (not that it really affects the overall meaning). But I don't see how you stand to gain a greater understanding from any other terminology being bandied about here. Basically, People jostled them, which is expanded by [them] as they moved forward, itself expanded by [forward] toward the gateway. The only interesting thing is what does came back to the Muggle world "attach" to, and as I've said, you can choose between the two possibilities. That's all there is Feb 21, 2013 at 16:56

The phrase "back to the Muggle world" modifies "gateway", which is a noun. It does not modify the verb "moved". So, given your two choices, I would pick "adjective", not "adverbial".

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