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"Between the chair and Polly, and filling most of the middle of the room, was a big table piled with all sorts of things."

According to my view, in that sentence 'piled' is a verbal adjective attached the the noun table. But that's not the table which is piled but the 'all sorts of things'...In fact, I don't understand the construction of the end of this sentence.

what I have understood :

"Between the chair and Polly, and filling most of the middle of the room, was a big table, on which were piled all sorts of things."

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    The verb to pile can mean both to heap things up and to load a surface with things. Dec 18, 2021 at 9:27
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    Yes, "piled" is an adjective here with a meaning similar to "stacked". "Piled with all sorts of things is thus an adjective phrase modifying "table".
    – BillJ
    Dec 18, 2021 at 9:34
  • @BillJ, I know you've got a handy set of tests for whether something is an adjective or a participle (or a noun adjunct etc). Can you use these to demonstrate to a sceptic that "piled" is an adjective.
    – James K
    Dec 18, 2021 at 11:04
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    @JamesK I take it be an adjective because it has a stative meaning rather than a dynamic one. For "piled" to be a verb it would have to be a passive clause, but it would be difficult to reformulate it as an active clause with a direct object: we can't really say "All sorts of things piled a big table".
    – BillJ
    Dec 18, 2021 at 12:46
  • In fact, even the OP's sentence is a tad unusual: we might more naturally say "... a big table piled up with all sorts of things".
    – BillJ
    Dec 18, 2021 at 14:34

2 Answers 2

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The word "piled" has at least two different meanings:

"I piled the table with books."

"I piled books on the table."

These sentences both mean the same thing even though the direct object in one is the indirect object in the other.

In your example sentence, the word "piled" is an adjective, but the same meaning applies even to adjectives:

"The books are piled on the table."

"The table is piled with books."

These describe the exact same situation, only changing the focus to the table or to the books.

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"Piled" is an adjective here with a meaning similar to "stacked". "Piled with all sorts of things" is thus an adjective phrase modifying "table".

I take it be an adjective because it has a stative meaning rather than a dynamic one. For "piled" to be a verb it would have to be a passive clause, but it would be difficult to reformulate it as an active clause with a direct object: we can't really say *"All sorts of things piled a big table".

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