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Consider this sentence:

I am truly amazed by my success at this diagramming business, but I wish for a rest now.

I think that the adverb "now" modifies "rest". But according to the answer page, I'm wrong, and I don't know why. Please, can someone clarify?

  • 2
    Rest is not a verb here; now modifies wish. – Anonym Jul 28 '15 at 23:39
  • You seem to have a point. Consider: "I wish [ for a rest now / for a rest later this afternoon ]". It seems that "I" am wishing for something, and that something is "a rest now". :) – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 0:38
  • Consider: "I wish they were here now", "I wish [she was here]", "I wish [semester ended next week]", "I wish [you would come with us tomorrow]" -- examples from H&P CGEL, pages 150 and 1003. – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 1:30
  • Interestingly, if the word "now" is moved to other locations, then stuff seems to get interesting (some seem to give ambiguous interpretations?) : "[a] I [b] wish [c] for a rest". hmm. But anyway, you weren't asking for those. :) – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 2:11
  • Could you tell us what grammar book that is? . . . Also, I'm getting more and more convinced that your answer is basically correct, and that the book's answer seems to be outright wrong. It is very very hard, perhaps (or probably) impossible, to make that trailing "now" modify the matrix "wish". imo. :) – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 17:32
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The phrase "I wish for a rest now" could be interpreted to mean that at the present time (ie, "now") you are wishing for a rest (presumably beginning immediately, if not sooner), or it could be interpreted to mean that you have a wish that at the present time ("now") you were resting.

The difference in the two meanings is certainly subtle, and, some would argue, inconsequential, since the effects (such as they are) of the two wishes are identical.

The argument that "a rest" is not a verb and therefore does not couple with an adverb is a technicality, of course. If the statement were reworded as "I wish to rest now" then "rest" becomes a verb and the technicality evaporates.

Rewritten this way you could further rewrite as either

I wish to now rest

or

I now wish to rest

allowing you to be more explicit as to the meaning. But neither rewrite is as satisfying (and restful) as the original, and thus such a rewrite would only be appropriate if there was some need to distinguish between the two (nearly identical) meanings.

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  • 1
    Yes, good point. I think also you could also argue that "I wish for a rest now" means "I wish for a rest to occur now" or similar. – chasly from UK Jul 29 '15 at 0:13
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    Well, the reason for that is that now isn't an adverb!! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 29 '15 at 14:18
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I agree that "now" modifies "a rest". To make grammatical sense of it, we can assume that "a rest" is the remnant of an understood verb phrase "(to take) a rest". (I don't know where the "for" comes from.)

I am led to this analysis by considering a similar construction, "I wish for an immediate rest." Evidently, "immediate" could not go with "wish", because it is not the wish that is immediate. I think it is also possible to have an adverb form of this: "I wish for a rest immediately."

You could also get "I wish for a rest soon," where "soon" clearly concerns when the rest comes, not when I do my wishing.

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  • +1, yes, for the present tense of "wish" conveys the now-ness of the wish event itself. The word "now" is part of what it is that is being wished for, because it is part of the complement of "wish": "for a rest now". :) – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 1:40
  • Agreed. Imagine he had said I wish for a rest tomorrow. Clearly the wish is now and the rest is in the future. I don't know where the "for" comes from. - you wish for something. – Nick Gammon Jul 29 '15 at 4:27
  • You had me with you for a while, but I don't think that analysis will hold here. Reason is: "But now I wish for a rest". – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 29 '15 at 8:27
  • The reasoning is completely botched. In fact it is circular reasoning. You first take the desired conclusion, then come up with a bunch of contrived, and obviously wrong, arguments, to fit it, and then are happy to report that the desired conclusion is correct. What do you mean, "I don't know where the for comes from"? "Wish for" is a set phrase. You've never wished for anything before? And "rest" is not a a remnant of an understood verb phrase "to take a rest". Complete and utter nonsense you only just invented. This barely qualifies for a comment, much less an answer. −1. – RegDwigнt Jul 29 '15 at 8:58
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    By the way, notice that I have "now" modifying "a rest", which is a noun phrase, rather than modifying "rest", which is a noun. Although adverbs do not modify nouns (as some argued in previous comments), they do modify noun phrases. "The archeologist identified the skeleton as possibly a reptile/as a possible reptile." – Greg Lee Jul 29 '15 at 16:33
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I would say that in terms of meaning we tend to associate 'now' with 'rest' in that sentence.

In terms of grammar we are constrained to making the adverb 'now' refer to 'wish'.

The reason is that you cannot use 'now' as an adjective. You cannot say "I want a now rest." However you can say "I want a rest now." which in terms of grammar is equivalent to "I now want a rest."

I sympathise with your point of view.

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2

"... I think that the adverb "now" modifies "rest"." It doesn't.

Here's why:

  1. What you're doing now is wishing, which is the verb.
  2. Although "rest" can function as a verb, it's a noun here, as it is "a rest".
  3. Once you realize the above, you will be able to see why "now" doesn't modify it. But if you believe an adverb (such as "now") can modify a noun, then there's a problem.

What you're actually doing now is wishing, and that's why "now" modifies the verb, "wish".

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  • Hi. Thanks for your reply. What is it about "a rest" that makes it a noun? Is it because there is the article "a" before it? And is there a specific term for that? – user1593993 Jul 29 '15 at 0:40
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    You're right! You know only a noun can be preceded by an article. Besides, article or no article, in the expression, "to take rest" (verb: take) or the phrase, "wish for a rest" (verb: wish), "rest" is used as a noun. The only time it serves as a verb is when you say something like: "I want to rest now", "I wish I could rest for some time", "I rested for a full three hours", I'll rest once I'm done", etc. – Sankarane Jul 29 '15 at 1:10
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    The question has created a 'storm' - all views and angles are being debated. Interesting. Thanks! – Sankarane Jul 29 '15 at 10:24
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    Ah, but now isn't an adverb, it's an intransitive preposition. Prepositions can quite happily post-modify nouns: The man in the black suit, that box over there. We can also have "A rest now will be much better than a rest later" and so forth. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 29 '15 at 14:23
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I am truly amazed by my success at this diagramming business, but I wish for a rest now.

The word now is a preposition (intransitive prepositions like now are thought of as adverbs in traditional grammar). This preposition phrase functions as a modifier in both noun phrases and verb phrases. It is a temporal adjunct, meaning it gives us information about time.

Preposition phrases can freely postmodify nouns - a property which distinguishes them from adverbs and adverb phrases:

  • the man in the park
  • the elephant at the centre of the controversy
  • the penguin in the tuxedo
  • that silly billy over there
  • a stitch in time
  • one mistake now
  • A rest now will be much better than a rest later.

And, of course, as we said earlier preposition phrases can modify verb phrases too:

  • sing like an angel
  • lean at an angle
  • teach on Wednesday afternoons
  • read at home
  • play on your own
  • come now

Now temporal adjuncts in the clause structure can usually come at the end or the beginning of the clause:

  • On Wednesday afternoons I play tennis.
  • I play tennis on Wednesday afternoons.
  • I take a break at one o'clock.
  • At one o'clock I take a break.
  • I have a donut once in a blue moon
  • Once in a blue moon I have a donut.

The Original Poster's example

If we consider the original example without the word now it becomes obvious that we cannot tell for certain what the word now is modifying just from the meaning:

  • I am truly amazed by my success at this diagramming business, but I wish for a rest.

It is quite probable that the speaker wants to rest now. We also know for sure that the speaker is entertaining this wish now too. We can tell these two facts without actually using the preposition at all. Therefore a speaker could easily use now to modify either the verb phrase or the noun rest and the sentence would make perfect sense.

We can also see that the word now is in a position which is ambiguous between the two readings, because it could be postmodifying rest or coming after the verb phrase wish for a rest.

Because of this we cannot tell for certain whether the clause means:

  • A rest now is what I wish for.

or alternatively:

  • Now I wish for a rest.

Indeed, the two sentences above provide independent evidence that both interpretations are possible. The first sentence shows that a rest now can be a noun phrase in its own right, therefore supporting the idea that this is what we are seeing in the original sentence. On the other hand, if now is a temporal adjunct in the original, then we would expect to be able to front it to the beginning of the clause. This is exactly what we are seeing in the second example above.

It seems, therefore, that the Original Poster is completely justified in analysing now as a modifier of rest, although it could just as easily be a modifier in the clause.

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    Perhaps you could insert your example "A rest now will be much better than a rest later" into your answer post? For it seems to succinctly demonstrate your point as to what kind of stuff that word "now" can actually modify. :) – F.E. Jul 29 '15 at 17:39
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    "It seems, therefore, that the Original Poster is completely justified in analysing now as a modifier of rest, although it could just as easily be a modifier in the clause." <== I agree with the first part -- but obviously I disagree with that bolded part! :D – F.E. Jul 30 '15 at 18:19
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I would see "now" as a sentence adverb. "Now" does not so much refer to "I wish" but to the whole idea "I wish for a rest". So I would see it as (I wish for a rest) + now. The question may be interesting and it may be interesting to read the different interpretations, but to be honest such a simple sentence structure with an adverb of time would not raise the question in me what "now" modifies. To me it seems to be a school question.

But I have another problem, a problem with English grammar terms. I would describe the verb construction as verb + prep-object (or prepositive, a new case I personally work with). But I get into collision with the English habit of calling a complement after a preposition an object. I avoid this term and use only: preposition (prep) + complement.

But if I write the verb construction is verb + prep + object I am sure it is understood that I speak of a prep and its object and not of a verb and its object.

How is the verb construction described from the English view?

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I see "now" as modifying the implied verb "to have", as in:

I wish for [to have] a rest now.

You are saying you want an action to happen (having something), starting at a particular moment (now). "Now" gives information, so it acts as an adverb for this having something action, just as "later", "tomorrow", and "soon" do.

But unlike Greg Lee's answer, I don't see it as modifying the whole phrase "[to have] a rest", because imagine:

I wish for [to have] a donut now.

Again, here "now" serves to inform when this action takes place, so it tells something about the action, this an adverb. But it doesn't matter what is being had. It could be a rest, a donut, a break, a moment alone, a bath, etc.

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