According to Wiki, Adverbials are typically divided into four classes:

adverbial complements (i.e. obligatory adverbial) are adverbials that render a sentence ungrammatical and meaningless if removed. John put the flowers in a vase.

adjuncts: these are part of the core meaning of the sentence, but if omitted still leave a meaningful sentence. John and Sophia helped me with my homework.

conjuncts: these link two sentences together. John helped so I was, therefore, able to do my homework.

disjuncts: these make comments on the meaning of the rest of the sentence. Surprisingly, he passed all of his exams.

In the sentence, " He is charged with murder", is "with murder" an adverbial complement or an adjunct?

  • That depends on the audience. If the audience is the jury itself, they would definitely wanna know what he is charged with and in such case this would be obligatory. On the other hand, if the audience is keast interested in the case, it would be enough for them to know that he is charged with something and in such case, we would have an adjunct. But I'd say it is obligatory (adverbial complements) because Oed defines charge as " formally accuse (someone) of something," so you need the "someone" and "something."
    – vickyace
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 9:28
  • 6
    That's a terrible classification. The term "adverb" is being used in several different (and occasionally contradictory) definitions, and there is no ontological structure or tests for the categories that doesn't depend on some arbitrary property that has nothing to do with adverbs. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 17:43
  • 3
    Agree with John -- I think these "classifications" muddy the waters by confounding what are essentially different dimensions of categorisation. I think it's more useful to concentrate on classifying constituents according to (a) their essential category (e.g. if something is phrase headed by a preposition, call it Prepositional Phrase); (b) as a parallel dimension, their structural position within the sentence as a whole (e.g. whether they are an argument/complement of the verb, or an adjunct to the verb phrase, an adjunct to the sentence as a whole, etc.). Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


He is charged with murder.

Here with murder should be classed as complement. The reason is that the preposition with seems to depend on the verb. Compare this with:

  • charged on Monday
  • charged at 11am
  • charged by the police

Here the different prepositional phrases we observe can occur freely with a wide range of sentences. There is no sense in which the on in on Monday is there because it is licensed in some special way by the verb CHARGE. The situation is palpably different in the case of charged with. The preposition with intuitively seems to go with the verb.

Now the term complement as described in the Wikipedia excerpt is rather problematic. To illustrate, every direct object is a complement. So for example in:

  • He smiled a beautiful smile.

... the noun phrase headed by smile is regarded as a complement of the verb. However, because the verb SMILE can be both transitive and intransitive (i.e. may or may not take an object), we will still have a workable sentence without the object:

  • He smiled.

This definition of a complement - as something without which the sentence will be grammatically incomplete - is therefore not very helpful. The best way to understand a complement is as a phrase which fulfils a special kind of grammatical function. A useful way of thinking about this function is that one of the items in the sentence sets up a 'slot' or series of 'slots'. The phrases that fill these slots function as complements of the item in question.

Consider the following utterance:

  • I bet Bob £50 Obama will win the election.

Here the verb BET sets up slots for the following: a betting adversary (Bob), a stake (£50) and a proposition (Obama will win the election). The items in brackets that fill these slots are therefore complements of the verb bet. We can of course stick an adjunct onto the sentence:

  • I bet Bob £50 Obama will win the election in one of my fits of recklessness.

In one of my fits of recklessness, though, is not filling a slot set up by the verb. It is merely tagging extraneous information onto the sentence proper. It is in every sense an adjunct.

When we are not sure if an item is a complement or an adjunct, there are various tests that we can apply. For example, we can replace the verb and its complements with the pro-form verb DO and the pronoun it. If the item is an adjunct then we should still be able to add it onto the end of the sentence. If it is a complement this will (usually) not be possible:

  1. They played football in the park.
  2. They did it in the park.
  3. They did it football. * (wrong)

Example (2) shows that in the park is not a complement of the verb, as we are still able to append it to the sentence after the verb and its complements have been replaced. It is an adjunct. Example (3), however, shows that football does seem to be a complement of the verb, because if we repeat it after the verb and complements have been replaced, the sentence is badly formed. We can do the same test with complements of the verb BET:

  1. I bet Bob £50 that Obama will win the election in one of my fits of recklessness.
  2. I did it in one of my fits of recklessness.
  3. I did it Bob. * (wrong)
  4. I did it £50. * (wrong)
  5. I did it that Obama will win the election. * (wrong)

Sentence (2) above shows that in one of my fits of recklessness is an adjunct. Sentences (3-5), contrastingly, show that the various phrases associated with the verb bet are not adjuncts but complements.

Returning to the sentence in the Original Poster's question, we need to change the pro-forms slightly so that the verb DO is in the passive to match the structure of the original sentence. The following sentences will be useful in terms of comparison:

  • He was charged on Friday.
  • He was charged unjustly.
  • He was charged with murder.

When the necessary adjustments are made we will see that on Friday and unjustly do indeed behave like adjuncts, but that with murder does not. It behaves like a complement:

  • It was done on Friday.
  • It was done unjustly.
  • It was done with murder. * (wrong)

All the evidence then seems to suggest that in the example sentence with murder is a complement, not an adjunct.


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