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She hit the ground running.

He went flying.

In these two examples, the present participles 'running' and 'flying' are clearly modifying their respective verbs. 'Running' complements 'hit', and 'flying' complements 'went'.

Therefore, is it the case that present participles can function as adverbs?

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  • The first example seems to mean the same as "she was running when she hit the ground." Maybe it describes the subject and the verb together. The second example seems to describe him, as a result of getting hit by the car, so again, maybe it applies to both subject and verb together. Oct 31, 2021 at 3:21
  • Running was how she hit the ground. But bear in mind: hit the ground running is an idiomatic expression. However, when you switch it around, running is a noun gerund. To go flying is also (unless you mean flying a plane) is also idiomatic. So, these can't be analyzed the way you seem to want to do. "go flying" is not an adverb. It means a type of fall.
    – Lambie
    Oct 31, 2021 at 16:46
  • No: only in the first is the participial clause a modifier. "Running" is a predicative adjunct: predicative because it refers to a predicand, i.e. "she", and an adjunct because it's an optional modifier in clause structure. In the second (assuming that "flying" is an idiom meaning "move quickly through the air"), "go" is a catenative verb and "flying through the air" is its catenative complement.
    – BillJ
    Oct 31, 2021 at 18:06

2 Answers 2

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[1] She hit the ground [running].

[2] He went [flying].

No: only in [1] is the participial clause a modifier.

In [1] "running" is a predicative adjunct: predicative because it refers to a predicand, i.e. "she", and an adjunct because it's an optional modifier in clause structure.

In [2] (assuming that "flying" is an idiom meaning "move quickly through the air"), "go" is a catenative verb and "flying through the air" is its catenative complement.

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That's something that participial phrases and prepositional phrases have in common -- they're general modifiers. They work in either adjectival or adverbial roles.

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