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I have always thought it acceptable to say and write, "She looked at me disgusted." However, I know some consider it ungrammatical, saying it must instead be either "She looked at me disgustedly" or "She looked at me, disgusted."

Please give me your opinions and explanations as to whether any of the foregoing sentences must be deemed grammatically wrong.

Briefly, my own analysis is as follows. It is correct to say, "She looked disgusted." So why would it be incorrect to say "She looked at me disgusted"? (She was disgusted while looking at me--or, she was looking at me while disgusted.)

  • Being syntactically correct is not the same as being semantically appropriate. Grammar ensures that the sentence is formulated according to rules. Semantics will decide if the sentence conveys the same meaning as you intend. Perfectly grammatical sentences can also be formed without their making any sense or being ambiguous. – Kris Dec 18 '13 at 11:22
  • Is it actually non-obvious that this sentence is acceptable in standard English? I'm surprised. – snailcar Dec 18 '13 at 11:34
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    Your analysis is incorrect. The verb looked can be either a linking verb (she looked disgusted) or an ordinary verb (she looked at me), but it can't be both at once. – Peter Shor Dec 18 '13 at 12:56
  • As Peter says, your parallel does not work. If you substitute watched for looked at, you find that you cannot in fact say, “Anne watched disgusted”. There is a constraint in English that a pronominal subject of an action verb may not be attributively modified by an adjective unless it's forced into acting as a noun phrase (“The new you works much faster than the old you”). The adjective must be separated into a clause of its own to modify the subject, or it must be made into an adverb and modify the verb instead. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 7 '14 at 14:56
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There is no must about grammar; you may use any formulation you want, and others will decide for themselves whether they think you right, wrong, or a pioneer.

There are, however, principles, one of which is that ambiguity is a bad thing in normal writing. Since 'She looked at me disgusted' might equally mean 'She looked at me, disgusted' or 'She looked at me disgustedly', it would be better to avoid it. But those of us who have left the classroom behind prefer to avoid saying "This is wrong", with or without the addition "Write out the correxct version 100 times."

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    What exactly is the difference between "she looked at me, disgusted" and "she looked at me disgustedly"? – Peter Shor Dec 18 '13 at 12:55
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    @PeterShor: In the first She is disgusted, in the second the look is disgusted. – Tim Lymington Dec 18 '13 at 13:01
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    Is this a big enough difference that avoiding ambiguity is important? – Peter Shor Dec 18 '13 at 14:21
  • @Peter: Probably not in this case; probably so in others. But OP asked about correctness, not about how important the difference was. And saying 'Yes, there's a difference but it's not worth my time explaining to you' is unattractive. – Tim Lymington Dec 18 '13 at 14:32
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Disgusted is an adjective, and modifies or describes a noun or a pronoun. In In the sentence 'She looked at me, disgusted' the comma shows it is not attached to the closest noun/pronoun (me) but is instead secondary information about the Subject of the sentence, 'she'. The sentence 'She looked at me disgusted' is ungrammatical because the adjective should come either after the verb, as in 'She looked disgusted' or before the noun, as in 'She looked at disgusted me' (I am the one who is disgusted); but this last one is clumsy and is rarely used. It does occur occasionally, in sentences like 'Lucky you!' or 'Silly me'.

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It would make sense if you wrote it like this:

Anne looked at me,disgusted.

or

Anne looked at me with a disgusted expression on her face.

or

Anne looked at me with a disgusted expression.

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Saying "disgusted" means that she was in the state of being disgusted.

Saying "disgustedly" implies that the way she looked at you was disgusting that she might have been putting on a disgusted face and didn't actually feel any disgust, that it was all only a facial grimace.

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