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I'm aware that an "adverb of time" usually just modifies a verb and answers the question "when". But, I'm a bit confused with this sentence here:

"He completed a course for a period of 1 year in the last 2 years."

Questions:

  1. Is the "in the last 2 years" an adverb of time?
  2. If so, does the "in the last 2 years" modify the action word "completed" to indicate the position in time of that action, or it modifies the noun phrase "for a period of 1 year" to indicate the position in time of that noun phrase? Or, does it modify both: verb "completed" and the noun phrase "for a period of 1 year"? => Was the action "completed" "in the last 2 years" OR was the "for a period of 1 year" "in the last 2 years", or both were "in the last 2 years"?

(Sorry in advance, I tend to overthink and confuse myself.)

Thank you!

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  • "In the last 2 years" is not an adverb but a preposition phrase modifying the noun phrase "1 year". The whole PP "of 1 year in the last 2 years" is complement of "period" and the whole PP "for a period of 1 year in the last 2 years" is a adjunct of time in clause structure.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 8:40
  • You need to know that "a course for a period of 1 year in the last 2 years" is not a constituent.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 9:23
  • Thanks for your comment BillJ. But then, what would be the answer for the question: "When did you complete the course?"?
    – DanielSun
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 9:28
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    May I just say that your example is not at all natural. In fact I'm not entirely certain what it is supposed to mean.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 9:43
  • Hi BillJ. Ah yes, I took this sentence from a law section of a country. I edited a bit about the information (such as "course" instead of the name of the course) to keep it a bit private. But because it sounds a bit unatural to me so that's why I'm asking from your comments to see if I understand it correctly.
    – DanielSun
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 10:57

1 Answer 1

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  1. Yes, "in the last 2 years" is an adverbial phrase (not an adverb, which is a type of word).

  2. The phrase arguably modifies either the verb "completed" or the entire clause "He completed a course for a period of 1 year".

The argument that it modifies the entire clause is strong because you can move the clause to the front of the sentence without changing the meaning:

In the last 2 years, he completed a course for a period of 1 year.

Either way, it definitely does not modify "for a period of 1 year".

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  • Thank you! But, may I ask a little bit more regarding this? 1) Why doesn't the "in the last 2 years" modify the "for a period of 1 year"? I was searching around and noticed that an adverb sometimes can modify a noun, such as "almost everyone"? 2) So, what is the function of "for a period of 1 year" in this sentence? Many thanks!
    – DanielSun
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 6:24
  • The function of "for a period of 1 year" is to modify either the verb "completed" or the clause "he completed a course" -- same as "in the last 2 years". It gives information about the duration. It doesn't make any sense for one adverbial to modify the other. Why do you think it modifies "for a period of 1 year"? It doesn't make any sense.
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 7:01
  • Thank you gotube. Yeah, sorry I'm just confusing myself. Because I see "...for a period of 1 year 'in' the last 2 years." and I was unsure whether they are related (modifying each other). But I agree with what you explained.
    – DanielSun
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 9:29
  • @DanielSun Glad I could help. FWIW, on this site, if an answer is helpful, it's considered good etiquette to give it an upvote (click the "up" arrow), and if you feel it satisfies your question completely, to click the check mark.
    – gotube
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:24
  • Thanks gotube. I actually did try to "upvote" your comment but I need more "reputation". I'll be more active.
    – DanielSun
    Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 11:06

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