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The adjective 'well-known' used in the following sentence modifies/qualifies which noun i. e. either the 'Ruskin Bond' or the 'writer' ?

Ruskin Bond is a well-known writer.

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4 Answers 4

"Ruskin Bond" is the subject in the sentence, "is a well-known writer" is the predicate.

When you want to know who is doing the action, you ask to the verb who, or whom or whose.

So here would be:

Who is a well-known writer?

The answer will show you whom are you talking about.

Ruskin Bond.

In the example from Mark Beadles: "The well-known Ruskin Bond is a writer.", you ask who to the verb ("Who is a writer?") and the answer is the subject ("The well-known Ruskin Bond").

Sometimes the subject is tacit, it is not in the sentence but you can deduce it.

Is well-known for his writing skills.

Again, the who goes to the verb ("Who is well known for his writing skills?") the possessive adjective should give you the hint to guess what is the pronoun that is tacit in the sentence, the subject. In this case, he.

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Writer. There is such a thing as a “well-known writer“ and Ruskin Bond is one of them.

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If I recall my grammar-school grammar, writer is a predicate nominative and is roughly equated by "is" to the subject, Ruskin-Bond. However the connection is not an exact identity.

As phrased, well-known appears to modify writer, both because of its proximity and because it follows the article "a" which clearly refers to writer.

In other constructions it could be different.

The well-known Ruskin-Bond is a little-known expert carpenter.

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That would suggest that there are many Ruskin Bonds, and only one of them is well-known :) –  asymptotically Aug 3 '12 at 17:02
    
@asymptotically - Does that mean "the little-known RB" indicates there are many RBs and only one is little-known? –  bib Aug 3 '12 at 17:05
    
[note, no dash in Ruskin Bond] @bib, I disagree your latter example suggests "many Ruskin Bonds", but certainly it raises a question of how a well-known person can be little known. Consider instead: "Few know that well-known Ruskin Bond is an expert carpenter" or "It's little-known that well-known Ruskin Bond is an expert carpenter". –  jwpat7 Aug 3 '12 at 17:55
    
@jwpat7, I wholly agree that "it's little known . . ." is the better construction and mine is a bit strained. Only meant as an illustration of the possiblity. (Yes, it's a fragment.) –  bib Aug 3 '12 at 18:14

Grammatically, "well-known" qualifies "writer". You can tell this since they are placed in juxtaposition in the order adjective->noun, the usual method in English.

Semantically, "well-known" might be understood to qualify both to some extent, since the copula "is" equates the two. However, consider that:

The well-known Ruskin Bond is a writer

does not mean the same thing. Your sentence means "among writers, Ruskin Bond is well known." My sentence means "Ruskin Bond is well known, and happens to be a writer."

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