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She left the hotel without paying the bill.

How do I tell if a particular word is a preposition or an adverb when it is attached to a verb?

  • How is it "attached to a verb"? Just because it is positioned next to something that looks like a verb? There is essentially no big difference between without paying the bill or without her luggage. What would you say without is in without her luggage? Surely not an adjective because it is attached to a noun? – oerkelens May 21 '15 at 14:31
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    It's tempting to see She left without delay as "adverbial", since it answers the question How did she leave? But I honestly wonder what good it does learners to agonize over POS categories for such usages. I speak perfectly good English without knowing (or really caring). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 21 '15 at 14:37
  • @FumbleFingers It's important because many Learners (NS and NNS) are taught that prepositions employed without objects, particularly in what are called "phrasal" verbs, are adverbs, and it's not always easy for NNS to distinguish whether a given preposition in these constructions has an object or not. – StoneyB on hiatus May 21 '15 at 15:26
  • @StoneyB: Even armed with all that, I'm none the wiser as to whether OP's without is really a preposition or an adverb. Nor do I know whether it would be the same with a (very old-fashioned) butler announcing There is a gentleman caller without, ma'am (as opposed to ...a gentleman caller without an appointment). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 21 '15 at 15:48
  • @FumbleFingers This is why I like CGEL's treatment of these as intransitive prepositions -- you can treat the without in "a caller is without" as a locative preposition phrase just like "in the drawing room". – StoneyB on hiatus May 21 '15 at 16:06
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Without is a preposition.

Paying is not a verb, but a verbal. The entire phrase paying the bill I believe technically functions as a noun phrase.

Without paying the bill doesn't really answer the question "How did she leave?" so it's not adverbial. Without paying the bill does not really have anything to do with the manner or way (this is what how means) in which she left - it describes an additional and separate idea (it's more of a what). She left AND she didn't pay the bill - she didn't leave in manner or way that obstructed her from paying the bill.

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    Let me get this straight. You say without paying is a preposition usage because it doesn't describe the manner in which she left. Are you by implication saying that without delay is adverbial (because it does describe the manner)? Even more relevant, perhaps, what about without waking me, which it seems to me is even more definitely a description of how she went. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 21 '15 at 15:55
  • No, it's a description of something that didn't happen while something else was happening. It's a what, not a how. It can imply a manner, but is not itself a manner. – LawrenceC May 21 '15 at 16:58
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    I'm afraid your distinction is too subtle for me. I could buy She left without anyone noticing as meaning nobody noticed while she was leaving, so you could rephrase it as two consecutive statements She left. Nobody noticed her departure. But that doesn't seem to work so well with She left. Her departure was without delay, since the act of leaving and the absence of any delay seem to be inherently part of a single action being more fully described (adverbially, I'd have thought). How would you deconstruct, say, I spoke without thinking ? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 21 '15 at 17:31
  • It's hard to explain. I could be wrong and I'm eager for further insight myself. :) Deconstruction ... You spoke and you didn't think while/before you spoke. She left the hotel and didn't pay the bill while she was leaving/before she left the hotel. Something like e.g. "She left the hotel unwillingly" doesn't fit that. She left the hotel in and the activity of her leaving was in a state of unwillingness. – LawrenceC May 21 '15 at 21:36
  • Well, even given StoneyB's helpful pointer, I can't really see how being able to categorise without as a preposition or an adverb would help anyone learn how to learn English. I'd just assume all the without X constructions we've been considering here are "adverbial phrases", within which the actual word without is a preposition, but I still don't see what difference it makes what we call these components. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 22 '15 at 11:59

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