"A few days every month, he goes cycling."

Is the noun phrase "a few days every month" acting as an adverb to "goes" in the above sentence? There is no preposition before the noun phrase "a few months every year" that may make it an adverbial phrase. So how is the sentence without a preposition in the present form correct grammatically?

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    Adverbial phrases can exist without prepositions. What is the question here exactly?
    – tchrist
    Jan 4, 2015 at 5:06
  • "Today, he went cycling. Last Wednesday, he walked. The other time, he took the bus. Every time it rains, he brings his umbrella." (I don't see any prepositions there either. ) Jan 4, 2015 at 5:16
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    To UK ears, I'd say that dropping the prepositions from temporal expressions often jars. It's inconsistent; 'He stayed there fourteen years' sounds fine to me, but 'He's been playing football fifteen years' needs a 'for' (or a final 'now' would possibly make the difference). Here, 'For a few days every month ...' probably sounds marginally better to my ears. Neither should be considered ungrammatical. Jan 4, 2015 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


It is an adverbial phrase, just like the ones Brian mentioned, but in some sense it does not modify the verb but the whole sentence "he goes cycling". A clearer example is "Obviously, he ran off.", where "obviously" does not describe the way "he ran off" but rather describes that the fact that "he ran off" was an obvious one.

Also, a prepositional phrase can be used as an adverb but not all adverbial phrases are prepositional. "He runs quickly" has an adverb "quickly".

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    @EdwinAshworth: Well your distinguishing is based on some theory of linguistics you are using. I don't think it's wrong to call "obviously" in my example as an adverb, whether or not you want to label it as a pragmatic marker. There is a whole spectrum of adverbs. How about "Unsurprisingly, he ran off.", "As was to be expected, he ran off.", "As we expected, he ran off.", "As always, he ran off." and "As he always did, he ran off"? Which of those are pragmatic markers and which are not? Can you give a formal unambiguous definition of pragmatic markers?
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 12:40
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    @EdwinAshworth: Also, you are wrong about the adverbials modifying the verb phrase alone. Consider the following: "Every weekend, she goes to the park while he stays at home."
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 12:49
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    @EdwinAshworth: Okay I will read up, but I don't see how it's valid to say that it can modify both simultaneously. How about "Every once in a while, she goes to the park instead while he stays at home."? Clearly the adverbial (or whatever you want to call it) modifies the second part as a whole, not as individual verb phrases. If that is what you mean, I don't see any benefit of considering the adverbial to modify them separately.
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 13:00
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    @EdwinAshworth: And your example "John rowed, and Jill walked, slowly." is totally different from my example, because indeed "slowly" here can modify both (though it is ambiguous and can be taken to only modify "Jill walked"). In your example you can split the sentence up into two separate sentence, however in my example ("Every weekend, she goes to the park while he stays at home.") you cannot because the meaning will completely change.
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 13:41
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    @EdwinAshworth: No I'm not muddling anything. It's possible for a writer to purposely insert a comma into the latter to specify how Jill walked. Why do you insist that there is only one way to take it? As for the other example, I'm just saying that you are putting adverbial phrases into too many categories than I would say are necessary, and it also makes your claims quite untestable because you cannot give statistical analyses to support your understanding. Anyway let's forget it. We both have too different approaches to linguistics.
    – user21820
    Jan 4, 2015 at 15:12

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