(From A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe)

William takes in the ballroom's high ceiling, the pink and white embellishments, looping and twisting in and out of the alcoves. Giant diamond teardrops and swooping strings of chandelier glass hang imperious and heavy over the tables.

It seems the verb "hang" is used as a link/linking verb there and an adjective is used to complete its meaning. But then "hang" is used with adverbs as well. Is there a distinction in meaning between using the adjective and the adverb?

  • 1
    If hang is used in its intransitive sense there's probably a stylistic difference only. Something that "hangs precariously" or that "hangs precarious" is at risk of falling in either case.
    – TimR
    Mar 30 at 11:56
  • 1
    You could say imperious and heavy are "flat adverbs" rather than adjectives. But it's just a "syntactic / stylistic choice" - it makes no difference to the meaning if they hang imperiously and heavily over the tables. Mar 30 at 12:16
  • 1
    if it helps, you can put a colon or comma after 'hang'. Mar 30 at 12:51
  • 1
    On the stylistic choices, hang imperious and heavy sounds fine to me but I don't think all adjectives could be substituted equally well for their adverb counterparts. hang menacing sounds a little off to my ear. And it is likely to have to do with the duo of adjectives, since hang menacing and ominous sounds a lot better than menacing alone.
    – TimR
    Mar 30 at 13:25
  • 2
    It's equivalent to “teardrops and strings, heavy and imperious, hang”. Mar 30 at 18:01

2 Answers 2

  • You usually hang your curtains nicely.[transitive verb + adverb]

  • The man hung dead from the rope. Here, dead is an adjective.

  • The ball hangs alone from a thread attached to the ceiling. alone=adj.

  • A dress hangs blue against the sky from the clothesline. blue=adj.

  • That surfer always hangs ten. [ten=adj.]

  • The chandeliers hang imperious and heavy over the tables. [imperious and heavy=adj]

  • His head lay heavy on the pillow.

  • The smog hung heavy over the city.

Yes, it can be followed by an adjective if used as a linking verb and intransitively. The effect though can be adverbial in examples above.

More linking verb examples with adjectives They seemed quiet. They appeared silly. We hang loose in our crowd.

Oxford Languages via Google:

hang can be transitive or intransitive: fall loosely [intransitive] hang adv./prep. when something hangs in a particular way, it falls in that way
Her hair hung down to her waist.
He had lost weight and the suit hung loosely on him. [an ly adverb is also possible]


As the comments have noted, imperious and heavy are actually still being used as adjectives here, directly modifying the nouns teardrops and strings. The author made a stylistic choice to put the words in this order because there are so many adjectives earlier on.

Here is a simpler example:

My small elderly cat sits on the table, regal in her old age.

could just as easily be:

My small, elderly cat sits on the table. She is regal in her old age.

Or even just:

My small, elderly cat is regal in her old age as she sits on the table.

In this example, the word regal modifies cat, not actually the way she is sitting.


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