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If Craig wrote a question on an online forum and the question was intended for Larry:

  1. Craig posted a question to Larry.

Should the part "to Larry" modify "a question", or "posted"? In another word, should sentence 1 be interpreted with "a question to Larry" acting as a single unit:

Craig posted [a question to Larry].

or should sentence 1 be interpreted like this:

Craig posted to Larry a question.

?

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I'd actually say that the question was posted for Larry. –  Jim Feb 4 '13 at 1:57

2 Answers 2

Logically, we could parse it as either:

[Craig] [posted a question] [to Larry]

Where "to Larry" modifies the verb phrase "posted a question".

Or as:

[Craig] [posted] [a question to Larry]

Where "a question to Larry" is the object of the verb posted.

We can demonstrate that both work logically, by considering:

"Craig, did you post that question to anyone?"

"Yes, to Larry."

And:

"Craig, did you do anything about that question to Larry?"

"Yes, I posted it."

And of course, they amount to the same thing.

Now, as far as I can see, the grammar of the sentence matches the logic described above. While they're different, they amount to the same thing in terms of meaning. A difference, that makes no difference, is not a difference.

We could say explicitly match the first with "Craig posted a question, to Larry". We can't make something match only the second and not the first. This would be irritating if we needed to make a Reed-Kellogg diagram of it, but that's the Reed-Kellogg diagramming system's problem, not ours. (Reed Kellogg was designed to model the parsing of sentences in English, and potentially other languages. English was not designed to be modelled by Reed Kellogg).

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How you diagram this sentence is a theological question: it depends on what grammatical sect you adhere to. According to my confession, to Larry doesn’t “modify” anything here. It’s not an adjunct but a complement, a functional component of the predication; specifically, it’s the indirect object, exactly as in

Craig wrote Larry a letter.
Craig gave Larry a biff in the snoot.

That this function is expressed with a construction, the prepositional phrase, which in other cases may express an adjunct, is one of the happy quirks of English that cranks up our answer-to-question ratio.

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