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Having been bamboozled by various questions and answers on this site, I'd like to know what are the parts of speech (POS) and grammatical functions of the words and phrases in the following sentence:

  1. Bob made a book collector happy the other day.

Here I am particular interested in the status of the following items:

  • book
  • happy
  • the other day

But I also need the parts of speech and functions of all the individual words in the sentence. By functions I mean subject, complement and the like. I would also like to know the evidence for the assignments to specific functions and parts of speech.

The reason for asking this question is because the status of the three items listed above may be thought contentious by some people. For example, it might be argued by some that book is an adjective, whilst others will say it is a noun. Similarly, the other day some will argue is an adverb. Whether adverb here should be regarded as a function or part of speech in such analyses seems unclear.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 2, 2015 at 15:50
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    Since it is closed, I'll answer briefly here. "book" is a noun but functioning here as an adjective, just like "pet" in "pet cat" or "grammar" in "grammar book". In general nouns can be made to function that way. "happy" is clearly an adjective, and a complement to the verb "made". The syntax is "made X Y" where "X" is a noun and "Y" is either an adjective or a noun phrase, such as in "made him happy" or "made him one happy person". "the other day" is an adverbial phrase modifying the entire "Bob made a book collector happy". In general noun phrases denoting time can be used adverbially.
    – user21820
    Jan 5, 2015 at 10:51
  • @user21820 I heartily approve of your answer! And agree with almost all of it. Thank you! If this question gets reopened, maybe you could post it there!! Just to clarify one of the most important points, you're saying the other day is a noun phrase, right? :-) Because I definitely would agree! Jan 5, 2015 at 10:59
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    @Araucaria: Yes; it is a definite noun phrase. What else can it be? =)
    – user21820
    Jan 5, 2015 at 11:04
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    @Araucaria: You can also pose your questions to the Stanford parser at nlp.stanford.edu:8080/parser/index.jsp. I find it to be a rather accurate parser for standard (perfect) English.
    – user21820
    Jan 5, 2015 at 11:07

4 Answers 4

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+200

Although this question almost feels like three questions in one, I will try to answer all three parts — and the general question concerning the whole sentence as well.


book

In the noun phrase book collector, the noun book is a noun adjunct, it is used attributively. A common way of expressing this is to say that book is used as an adjective, but this does not mean that the noun is an adjective. It just plays a similar role.

Looking up attributive noun, we find, for example, Merriam-Webster telling us about the label attributive used in dictionaries:

The italicized label often attributive placed after the functional label noun indicates that the noun is often used as an adjective equivalent in attributive position before another noun:
1bot·tle . . . noun, often attributive
busi·ness . . . noun, often attributive
Examples of the attributive use of these nouns are bottle opener and business ethics.

Nouns used in this way are often said to be adjectives or act as an adjective. However, they are not. Adjectives do things that these nouns do not:

A great collector => a greater collector — We can form comparatives from adjectives.
A book collector => *a booker collector — Nouns do not like it when we do that.

A great collector => the collector is great — We can use a copula followed by an adjective.
A book collector => *the collector is book — Nouns do not like it when we do that!

In the answers to this question some more arguments are listed.


happy

This is an adjective. It modifies the noun (phrase) book collector. As we can see in this explanation from perfect English grammar about using make and let, this is a very simple construction where we use subject + make + object + adjective to mean “cause the object to be the adjective”:

We can also use subject + make + object + adjective. This means 'cause the object to be the adjective' (the adjective can be good or bad):
• Her story made me really happy.
• The traffic jam made us late.


the other day

This is not an adverb, but a noun phrase that is used as an time adverbial.

The British Council teaches us about adverbials of time:

We use adverbials of time to say:

• when something happened
• for how long
• how often (frequency)

We often use a noun phrase as a time adverbial


the whole sentence

Bob made a book collector happy the other day.

Bob — a noun functioning as the subject in the sentence.
made — a verb, functioning as the main verb describing the action that the subject executes.
a book collector — a noun phrase, functioning as the object of the sentence.
happy — an adjective, modifying the object of the sentence.
the other day — a noun phrase functioning as a time adverbial modifying the verb.

The noun phrases can be further taken apart as follows:

a — indefinite article
book — noun adjunct, or attributively used noun, modifying collector
collector — noun, head of this noun phrase

the — definite article
other — adjective modifying day
day — noun, head of this noun phrase

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    @Araucaria: evidence as to why book is a noun? I could try to conjugate it in the sentence to show it is not a verb, I could try to form a superlative to show it is not an adjective... But I am not sure what evidence you are looking for? A simple refutation of it being an adjective is easy enough, if that is what you mean :)
    – oerkelens
    Jan 7, 2015 at 16:22
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    I added two arguments and a link :) Any more ideas for additions are welcome, I'll have a look at them when I get home :)
    – oerkelens
    Jan 7, 2015 at 16:30
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    @Araucaria: You are quoting selectively, I think: " The simple answer is “Yes.” A better answer is “Well sure, sorta.” But the best is answer is “What’s an adverb?” And thereon hangs a much longer tale." So I think you might read simple in simple answer as: "The obvious, simplified answer, that keeps things nice and simple without getting into details", but it is immediately followed up by "but there is a better answer"...
    – oerkelens
    Jan 8, 2015 at 12:11
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    @oerkelens Agreed, however, that 'better' answer implies that next Tuesday is kind of an adverb. It doesn't say that next Tuesday can't be an adverb because it's two words. The commenter was implying that the status of noun phrase adjuncts isn't disputed when they're more than one word! This is just not the case. The commenter has talked abbout multi-word adverbs or adverby things in other posts too, as I recall. It's a valid concern of the question here. Jan 8, 2015 at 12:23
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    The concern is certainly valid - not only about supposed multi-word adverbs, but certainly also the nouns that are suddenly adjectives. I myself have been reprimanded for calling a noun an adjective, and I fully agree that I deserved the reprimand. (And I subsequently became very fond of the words attributive and attributively :) )
    – oerkelens
    Jan 8, 2015 at 12:47
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Parts of speech are categories, their members sharing various properties. One of these properties is the functions that the members can perform. These functions are relations, and each should be capable of coming before of. For example, in book collector, book is a dependent (more specifically an attributive modifier) of office. It generally makes no sense to say that something is a noun of or verb of.

If we look at families. Man and woman are categories (like parts of speech). You can see a man or woman outside of a family situation and generally still put them in the right category based on various properties such as facial hair, breasts, size, voice, etc. One of the properties of men is that they can function as 'husband of', 'brother of', 'parent of'. Women can be distinguished from men partly in their inability to function as 'husband of' or 'brother of', but both men and women can function as 'parent of'.

Back to words, the members of the category of English nouns share a range of properties, not just the relations into which they enter. They (typically) inflect for number, and many name concrete objects. Adjectives have other properties, like inflecting for grade (tall, taller, tallest). Number and gradability are distinguishing characteristics, but functioning as 'attributive modifier of' nouns is a shared characteristic. Only when book takes on more characteristics of adjectives such as becoming gradable (booker, bookest; like fun--traditionally a noun--being inflected funner and funnest) would we say that it actually now belongs (also) to that new category.

Here, as always, happy is an adjective (it inflects for grade: happier, happiest), but its function is not attributive modifier but rather the predicative complement of make. Here, we could say also she made the book collector president, and president would similarly be the predicative complement of make. Finally, the other day is a noun phrase (it's headed by a noun & can function as a subject of a verb). It's not an adverb (it can't be modified by very, it doesn't inflect with -ly). It is an adjunct of make.

There are many more properties of adjectives, nouns, etc, but it would be too much to discuss here. Suffice it to say you need to look at more than simply the relations something enters into.

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    +1 for a very good analogy. I disagree with your definition of what puts a word in the adverb class (which is of course the messy bastard child of word classes to begin with), and you seem to have neglected/forgotten to comment on the syntactic function of the other day, unless you consider ‘adjunct’ on its own a syntactic function (I’d disagree with that, too—it’s a category, not a function; I’d also consider the other day an adjunct of the sentence as a whole, rather than of make). Other than that, I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said here. Jan 11, 2015 at 16:15
  • It's not really a definition, just some typical characteristics, but yes, adverb is messy. Jan 11, 2015 at 16:19
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    Yes, I think it's an 'adjunct of' the verb. Adjunct is the relationship it has with the verb. You can't look at a word or phrase standing on its own and say, "that's an adjunct". And yes, there's a good argument to say it's an adjunct of the clause. Jan 11, 2015 at 16:21
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    Note that I didn’t say adjunct is a word class category—it’s a category/group of functions. The trouble with adjunct is that it’s not a single thing and not a single function, just like, say, argument isn’t. There are different types of adjuncts that function in fundamentally different ways and are adjuncts of fundamentally different things. An attributive adjective or noun is also (in some views, at least) a subtype of adjuncts, for example. The other day here I would label a(n adverbial) temporal clausal adjunct (because to me it modifies the clause, not the verb). Jan 11, 2015 at 16:34
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    Well, see, I would also say that complement isn’t actually a function itself, but a superset of certain functions. But maybe that’s just me being overly programmer-like and structuralist. Sure, all adjuncts have some things in common; but the five adjuncts in “Yesterday, I really made that book collector happy about his newest purchase all right” function in such different ways that I just think that especially with adjunct, the blanket term is almost as useless as the blanket ‘adverb’ category. Jan 11, 2015 at 16:53
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Book collector is a noun+noun compound.

Happy is an adjective.

The other day​ is a noun phrase.

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  • +1 Quite so :)! Any ideas about the functions? (Subject, Object etc?) Jan 9, 2015 at 11:04
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Abstract

The example expression can be redistributed in the following structure:

[Subject][Verb][Object][Modifiers]

Each phrase serving one of the above mentioned purpose is further sub-divided in to individual parts of speech.

Result Structure of the Expression

Description

Structure of an expression can be deduced by understanding the following:

  • Meaning
  • Grammar
  • Style/Idiomatic usage

Relations and Parts of Speech

I'll tackle this by identifying the right questions and proposing precise answers. Expression: Bob made a book collector happy the other day.

  1. What is going on here? --> (Someone) made (Someone) happy. Verb = made

  2. What did they make? - (That is how was verb applied) --> happy - a state A state would be an abstract Noun.


  1. Who made (Someone) happy? - We are looking for the Subject, the entity that did the activity in this case --> Bob Bob is a subject. Bob is also a (Proper) noun.

  2. Who was made happy? - We are looking for the Object, the entity for which the task was done --> a book collector 'a book Collector' is an object.

'A' is the indefinite article. An indefinite article points to nonspecific objects, things, or persons that are not distinguished from the other members of a class. Essentially, articles are Adjectives as they point to a noun.

In addition, 'book collector' is a compound of: Book + Collector. What does a 'book collector' mean? Someone who collects books. Breaking this further down, a 'book collector' is a type of collector who collects books. As 'book' provides the information on the type of the noun 'collector', 'book' is an adjective. 'Collector' is a noun.

To read more on Noun Phrases and Compound Nouns, refer to: Compound Nouns

To delve deeper in to the nuances, 'book collector' is a Noun phrase or Noun-equivalent. Source:Chicago Manual of Style - Noun-equivalents and substantives


  1. When did this happen? The other day We get the information about when the action took place. Therefore, 'The other day' acts an adverb.

Looking in to the terms individually: 'The' acts as the 'definite article to 'other day'and acts as an adjective. More on the topic: Purdue University OWL: Using Articles 'day' is the time when this occured. It is a Noun. 'other' tells us about the day. It is an Adjective.

More on compound adverbs here: Chicago Manual of Style - Phrasal and compound adverbs


PS: Thank you for the rep points. I've successfully added a detailed image and links to cite. Thanks for the workout. Please review and suggest updates. Edit: *Formatting, Structuring, Adding information

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  • Thank you my upvote fairy! Now, I'll improve this answer.
    – chatterji
    Jan 14, 2015 at 11:23
  • Nice diagrams! And a proper go at explaining the functions! Thanks. But I'm not sure about happy. I don't think that this is a modifier of made, I think it's a complement of the verb. The word happy is often a modifier in noun phrases, but it is usually a complement when it is a phrase in the verb structure. Here it describes the object, so we could say it is a predicative complement. But nice diagrams etc :-) (I don't think I can upvote it yet, because of the 'happy' issue! Jan 14, 2015 at 11:36
  • Also, is there any reason why book is an adjective here? You don't seem to give a reason ... You talk about its function, describing/modifying collector but not specifically about the part of speech. Jan 14, 2015 at 11:38
  • @Araucaria What an insight! Let me start by admitting that I am not certain of the answers that I'll suggest. Let me try, nevertheless. A [Verb Complement is an object to the verb] (grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/objects.htm). By calling it an Adverb, I am adhering to the definition- An adverb is a word that qualifies, limits, describes, or modifies a verb..._(chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch05/ch05_sec153.html). Now, _book - Considering the Compound Noun, the Part of speech that book plays must be relevant to the phrase and must not be judged standalone. Views?
    – chatterji
    Jan 14, 2015 at 12:02
  • "the Part of speech that book plays must be relevant to the phrase and must not be judged standalone" - actually, that's one reason why I asked the question. Really the role that a word/phrase plays relevant to the larger phrase it is in is its function, not its part of speech. So modifier, complement and so forth are descriptions of the function. But parts of speech can be thought of as being independent of a particular role they are playing (we need to be careful though, because there are many homophones out there!). So, although book is a modifier of the word collector it ... Jan 14, 2015 at 13:19

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