[i] Harry looked down at his empty gold plate. He had only just realized how hungry he was. The pumpkin pasties seemed ages ago. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

[ii] Albus Dumbledore had gotten to his feet. He was beaming at the students, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleased him more than to see them all there. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

[iii] The plane crashed killing all 157 passengers aboard. (OALD)

[iv] The black men have long since hidden themselves aboard the Flying Squadron, and I'm not at all convinced that the mob won't content themselves with a redheaded dwarf instead. (Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants)

The examples have an adverb that works as the peripheral modifier. or postmodifier, or postnoun modifier (source: CGEL,p436; English Grammar,Angela Downing, p509; Understanding English Grammar, Koll and Funk, p160), I think.

From the examples, I got the feeling that the adverbs, the modifiers are very similar to adjectives in semantic and syntactic aspects - they seem to have even their own complements like in [iv]. From said aspects, I don’t find any difference between adverbial and adjective. But there seem to be some differences, for they don’t have adjective examples in dictionaries. How do I have to understand that adverbs modify noun phrase and license their own complement.

  • Don't hold me to this tomorrow because I've had a glass of wine, or two, or too, or to. Humans have brains that seek patterns and pattern-finding is a great tool if you want to predict the next flood, monsoon or the next frost. It's a good way to find your way from Spain to the New World using the sun and the stars. But patterns are limited when used to describe something as quickly changing as a language. I remember when "however" was just an adjective. The questioner wonderfully illustrates this process. Nov 26, 2013 at 2:36
  • @Michael, ‘however’ has never been an adjective, so you must have an extraordinarily good memory! Nov 27, 2013 at 9:52
  • Adjective/adverb?? After a glass of wine, does it really matter? Thanks for the correction. Nov 27, 2013 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


In the example [iv], you could say the "aboard" is a preposition. Some dictionaries define ago and aboard as adjective; therefore the interpretation could depend on linguists.


In this dictionary, the part of speech for "aboard" is adverb, adjective, or preposition.


Here, it defines "ago" as adjective.

  • CGEL analyzes ago as an exceptional preposition which always comes after its complement.
    – user28567
    Dec 13, 2013 at 1:45
  • Thank you for adding information. I have found it out, but I have not had an opportunity to edit my answer.
    – 243
    Dec 15, 2013 at 18:48

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