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I'm confused about adjectival and adverbial participle phrases.

It came to pass that, settling permanently in Paris he, too, forgot the child, especially when the Revolution of February broke out, making an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his life.

It is stated that "making" is an adverbial phrase, but I read it as an adjectival phrase modifying "the Revolution of February". If it is an adverbial phrase, indeed, how can we transform this participle phrase to an independent clause?

I am confused about the sentence below in the same way. I believe this participle phrase may as well be read as an adjectival phrase, but the book indicates that it's an adverbial phrase.

Given a chance to reform, the young man robbed the bank anyway.

Please help me identify the phrases correctly, I really hard time using participle phrases as I cannot clearly understand how they should be used.

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2 Answers 2

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Welcome to the site!

I am a native speaker and am slightly unsure of the traditional grammatical terminology applied to these phrases; however, I think it is essential to analyze them on two different levels. Since the part of speech of "making" is unclear, let's look at some uses of the words "confident" and "confidently."

The dictionary will tell you that "confident" is an adjective and "confidently" is an adverb. If you say, "The confident student took the test," you are using "confident" as an adjective to express what type of student was involved. If you say, "The student took the test confidently," you are using "confidently" as an adverb to express the manner in which the test was taken. If, however, you say, "The student took the test, confident in her success," you are using the adjective form of "confident" as an adverb to describe the state in which the student took the text, but not what kind of student it was.

Similarly, "the tired man came home" does not mean the same thing as "the man came home tired." The first sentence describes what type of man came home; the second, what state he came home in. To ask a question about the second type of sentence, you would say: "How did the man come home?," using an adverbial question word.

This difference between the "dictionary" part of speech of a word or phrase. Is also true of nouns. If you said "He came home a tired man," you would still be describing the state and not the person. Again, this could be in answer to the question "How did he come home?"

In the first question posed, "making an impression on his mind" describes the effect of the revolution, not what type of revolution it was. This is an adverbial usage. In the second question posed, "Given a chance to reform" describes the conditions under which the man robbed the bank, not what type of man robbed the bank. This is again an adverbial usage.

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  • Thanks to both of you. What confuses me here, however, is that I have never seen adverbial clauses structured with "which", neither in the books nor in class. I'd rephrased the sentence in the same way and thought it was an adjectival one. If I were to make this adverbial phrase into an adjectival one, will the sentence follow like this? _....when the Revolution of February, making an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his life, broke out.
    – kumkedisi
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 8:47
  • @kumkedisi Like I said, "making..." is adverbial, so it cannot not modify just "the Revolution of February", which is a noun phrase. Yes, it's odd to have an adverbial phrase begin with "which". You can understand the "which" as referring to "the time when the Revolution of February broke out", or you can accept that the "which"-clause here is adverbial. Either way, both the "making..." and "which..." clauses modify the full clause, "(when) the Revolution of February broke out" and not just the noun
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 23:01
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"Making..." refers to the clause "the Revolution of February broke out", so it's an adverbial.

It can be rephrased:

... he, too, forgot the child, especially when the Revolution of February broke out, which made an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his life.

The other example is also adverbial, and can be rephrased:

When he was given a chance to reform, the young man robbed the bank anyway.

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  • Thanks to both of you. What confuses me here, however, is that I have never seen adverbial clauses structured with "which", neither in the books nor in class. I'd rephrased the sentence in the same way and thought it was an adjectival one. If I were to make this adverbial phrase into an adjectival one, will the sentence follow like this? ....when the Revolution of February, making an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his life, broke out. @Vegawatcher
    – kumkedisi
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 8:49
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    @kumkedisi Unfortunately, your rephrasing does not result in an acceptable sentence. As gotube alluded to, the phrase, the clause introduced by "which" does not describe what type of "revolution" it was, but rather what resulted from the revolution breaking out. It is a cause and effect relationship focused on the verb. Again, it's a matter of function. Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 17:24
  • Perhaps it would help not to try to replace these phrases with unambiguous adjective or adverbial phrases, but with prepositional phrases. In English, prepositional phrases can perform the function of either on adjective or an adverb. The first sentence could be rephrased and condensed to read: "He forgot the child, especially because of the revolution, with a lasting impression on his mind. It should be clear here that the prepositional phrase introduced by "with" cannot modify either "he" or "the child," but must be modifying the predicate and describing its result. Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 17:34
  • I'm sorry to say that I still haven't grasped the gist of the matter and I'm sorry that I've taken your time. Though I can understand the way you rephrased the sentence with the prepositional phrase, when I rephrased it, I did not think that the phrase would modify "he", or "the child", but "the Revolution". So my sentence was like this: when the Revolution of February, wich made an impression on his mind that he remembered all the rest of his life, broke out.
    – kumkedisi
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 14:22

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