Are these two sentences grammatically correct? What's the difference between them?

She came home angry

She came home angrily

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, MetaEd, Kris, TimLymington, Matt E. Эллен Jun 3 '13 at 14:10

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    I think this is General Reference for ELU, but would be okay on English Language Learners. @ roast_soul - in your examples, the angry version describes her mood/attitude when she came home; the angrily one describes the manner in which she returned. – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '13 at 3:06
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    The two sentences suggest at least one possible difference: "She came home angry" refers to a person who may or may not show outward signs of anger, but who is nonetheless angry. "She came home angrily" strongly suggests that the person is exhibiting symptoms of anger—a scowl, a slammed door, loud footsteps, and/or bitter words. In effect, "She came home angry" signifies "She was already angry when she came home," whereas "She came home angrily" signifies "She came home behaving angrily." – Sven Yargs Jun 3 '13 at 3:07
  • @Sven Yargs, So both sentence are correct. The angry version describes she is angry,but her action doesn't show that. The angrily version means that her action implies us she is angry. People can see her action 'came' to infer that she is angry. Is it right? – roast_soul Jun 3 '13 at 3:22
  • It's not as clear-cut as that, unfortunately, because the person in the "She came home angry" scenario may be visibly angry, too. There is certainly some overlap in the two expressions, but "She came home angry" doesn't require that the person be visibly angry, whereas "She came home angrily" very nearly does. In any event, both expressions are correct when used in the right circumstances. – Sven Yargs Jun 3 '13 at 3:31

Okay before getting all technical on the topic, let's try to figure out what do the two expressions seem to convey:

She came home angry expresses the subject's emotional state, without saying anything about its affect on the action of coming home. There is perhaps a weak cause-effect association, where her being angry may have caused her to come home. However this phrase says nothing (one way or another) about whether her being angry affected the act of coming home as she was in the state of that action.

She came home angrily again expresses the subject's emotional state, but it ties the state of being angry tightly with the action of coming whilst she's in the process of doing that action.

Whatever her mode of coming home (e.g. walking, running, driving or whatever) one can almost imagine her manifesting that anger into the action of coming. For example it conjures up the image of her driving rashly or bursting the door open when she comes in. There is an expectation of outward observable channeling of that anger in the main action of coming home.

I hope that you can see the difference between the two expressions at a level of conveying meaning.

Technically speaking:

In she came home angry the word angry is an predicate-adjective-clause that describes the direct subject namely She.

Whereas in She came home angrily, the word angrily is the attributive-adverb clause that attaches to the the phrase came home.

If you want to kind of visualize it, the associations are something like:

(she came home)(angry)


(she)(came home angrily)

If we were to use modern predicate grammar, the former would be:

came(angry(she), home))

Whereas the later would be expressed as:

angrily(came(she, home))

P.S.: I noticed earlier that, if spoken left to right, ignoring parentheses, it seemed that predicate grammar expressions sounded like Yoda speaking. It still seems so.

  • 1
    I the question as much simpler than a grammatical analysis that you have painstakingly put together here. "Are they grammatical? Y/N"; "If so, what does each of them mean?" – Kris Jun 3 '13 at 6:25
  • @Kris is this a bit clearer? – Ahmed Masud Jun 3 '13 at 6:59
  • A very clear-cut way to appreciate differences between adjectives and related adverbs is to consider the pair of sentences (a) The teacher marked the question wrong. (b) The teacher marked the question wrongly. However, when there is no direct object, we're looking at whether the modifiers are referencing the action carried out by the agent, or the agent it/himself. And often, the action reflects the state / mood ... of the agent, so adjectivality and adverbiality overlap semantically. Ahmed explains this nicely (before lapsing into algengbra). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 3 '13 at 18:35

It's very simple. Angry is an adjective. So angry described her. Angrily is an adverb. It modifies the verb "came", how she came home.

  • When you see a question that might be too simple for the average English speaker, consider if that might be a General Reference. – Kris Jun 3 '13 at 6:22
  • I'm not sure I'd write 'She came home angrily.' 'Angrily, she came home,' yes - this implies there's something other than the physical homecoming causing the anger (like being forced to come home, or a row with a friend). Syntactically, there is nothing wrong with the first version, of course, but it sounds strange to my ears. A bit like sleeping furiously. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 3 '13 at 18:42

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