Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What's the correct grammatical term for clauses expressing the goal or a target of an action expressed in the main clause?

For example:

Jack gave me his cell phone so that I could call my Mom.

Dad was telling me this story so that I didn't fall asleep.

To keep flowers growing, florists water them every day.

share|improve this question
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language puts these in the category of adjuncts of purpose.

Adjuncts, roughly speaking, are optional components of a sentence whose presence doesn’t change the meaning or role of other parts.

There are rather a lot of constructions, all with about the same meaning:

Doris Shotz shifted to avoid spilling the cheap champagne. (infinitival)

I bought them to read on the train. (infinitival with object omitted)

And in order to stop me, he locked me in the truck. (in order + infinitival)

I lifted it just barely, you know, so I could get a better look. (so + finite clause)

Let all your calls go to voice mail so that they are recorded. (so + finite clause with that)

I […] stared into his face so as to read every nuance of expression. (so as + infinitival)

He lay there staring at the ceiling with a view to getting back to sleep. (idiomatic preposition phrase containing participial)

The expressions in bold are adjuncts of purpose. Many of them contain clauses. Many of them contain infinitivals or participials, things other grammars might call phrases rather than clauses, but here they seem relevant whatever we call them.

Simple prepositional phrases like for fun are also considered adjuncts of purpose.

(A previous version of this answer said adjuncts of cause, but that is a broader term including not only adjuncts of purpose but also expressions like because X, since X, due to X, etc., which also answer the question why? but without necessarily implying intention or design.)

share|improve this answer
1  
I hope you will forgive me this little traditionalist remark. I'm not implying you've misread the CGEL or anything (of course not), but I must say I find their choice of the term adjunct of cause a bit confusing. Then what do they call a causal adjunct? To me, the principal meaning of cause is that which causes something else; the other meaning ("goal") comes second. I'd naively call it simply an adjunct of purpose. In sentences like "they built a dam high enough to block the water", I might call it a complement of purpose, though perhaps you could do something different with enough. –  Cerberus Oct 9 '11 at 0:29
    
@Cerberus Actually, I think the fault likes entirely with me: I did misread CGEL. What CGEL calls adjuncts of cause includes both adjuncts indicating purpose, like the examples here, and those indicating what they call reason (also a relationship of cause and effect, but without intention or design). So adjunct of purpose is the more precise term that brilliant is looking for. I hate to correct an accepted answer but it really is unfair to CGEL to leave it like this... –  Jason Orendorff Oct 10 '11 at 1:24
add comment

This is an adverbial clause, but the most precise term for this type of adverbial clause is purpose clause:

purpose clauses: These clauses are used to indicate the purpose of an action.

share|improve this answer
add comment

These are examples of adverbial clauses, where the clause functions as an adverb by modifying the action in the sentence.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The correct term is a Causal adjunct.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.