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Here's the SAT sentence that raised my curiosity:

Strong wind, sweeping almost unchecked over great distances, is a prime component of the grassland climate.

Although I know the sentence above is indeed the standard way of expression, I am wondering why shouldn't "unchecked" be replaced by an adverb.

I have done some research and someone suggested that "unchecked" is acting as a complement. If he is right, would anyone please indicate which kind of complement it belongs to and when it is correct to use as above?

I also found this on the Internet. According to The Guide to Grammar and Writing:

When the participle of an absolute phrase is a form of to be, such as being or having been, the participle is often left out but understood.

Does this help explain my sentence?

Thanks in advance. (I am not a native speaker so please forgive me for possible grammar mistakes in this post.)

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    I think you may have fallen into the fallacy of thinking that adverbs need to end in -ly. "when, where, now, then...." Some participles (e.g. unchecked) decidedly have no -ly form. Others, perhaps unexpectedly, do. – Brian Hitchcock Sep 27 '15 at 6:59
  • @BrianHitchcock It is not just about this particular sentence. While in this case one may argue "unchecked" is an adverb(New Oxford American Dictionary says it is not), in cases like "He returned home safe" there is no room for this type of argument. – AmosSame Sep 27 '15 at 14:26
  • I see your point. safe is definitely an adjective. And returning home safe is not the same as returning home safely. So, the wind was unchecked, not "sweeping". The question is more interesting than I thought, as it brings into doubt the oft-stated rule that predicate adjectives follow only "linking", stative verbs. e.g.: dailywritingtips.com/predicate-complements-2 – Brian Hitchcock Sep 28 '15 at 9:03
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Strong wind, sweeping almost unchecked over great distances, is a prime component of the grassland climate.

If you change the above sentence to

Strong wind sweeps unchecked over great distances

it is easier to understand.

"unchecked" complements the subject wind at the time it sweeps. That's why it could be called either "predicative-complement" or "quasi-complement". The sentence could be rephrased to

Strong wind sweeps over great distances and it is unchecked.

The more obvious examples are as follows;

She came home happy. = She came home and she was happy.

Happy complements the subject when she came home. That's why you don't use "happily".

He died young. = He died and he was young = He died young when he was young.

  • Strong wind sweeps unchecked over great distances ...But you can't complete the whole sentence in this way: Strong wind sweeps unchecked over great distances, is a prime component of the grassland climate. – Margana Sep 26 '15 at 19:13
  • @Rathony Thank you very much. Could you please elaborate a little bit more about "quasi-complement"? I don't quite get when it should be used. – AmosSame Sep 27 '15 at 14:18
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    @Amos "Quasi-Complement" is not often used. He left alone / He lives alone / He stood motionless. No adverb is used here. / They parted good friends. etc. You can see "good firends" are even a complement here. Hope it helps. – user140086 Sep 27 '15 at 14:26
  • @Rathony you are truly helpful. Now I get it better. What do think of the explanation I just posted? – AmosSame Sep 27 '15 at 14:42
  • @margana: so are you saying that "sweeps" is to be understood as a noun? ("...sweeps, [unchecked]... is...") Why not "...sweeps, [unchecked]...**are**..." ? – Brian Hitchcock Sep 28 '15 at 9:09
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I think you're right and that "unchecked" is a manner adverb. It could be replaced by "swiftly", for instance. Why not use "uncheckedly" then? Because it's not a word (though I don't understand why it's not a word).

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    I think participles get a pass on -ly; past participles, anyway. *Frightenedly? – John Lawler Sep 26 '15 at 13:53
  • @Mari-LouA, thanks, I corrected the typo. – Greg Lee Sep 26 '15 at 20:15
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    @GregLee Thanks for your answer. Can I ask who is right about "manner adverb"? I don't think "uncheckedly" not being a word can be used to justify that "unchecked" is an adverb. – AmosSame Sep 27 '15 at 14:23
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    @AmosSame, I think it can. I am taking McCawley's view here (in The Syntactic Phenomena of English) that many aspects of our syntactic system work they way they do because syntactic expressions must be fit into a fixed and limited morphological system. – Greg Lee Sep 27 '15 at 15:52
  • @AmosSame You're right here. It shouldn't be used as an argument in this case. Here the phrase "almost unchecked" is what is known as a "depictive adjunct" or "predicative adjunct". These are adjuncts which usually describe some entity represented by a noun phrase. They are never adverbs. In this case, the adjunct is describing the subject of the clause sweeping over great distances which is decipherable as "the winds". Consider "he ate the pizza naked". The word "naked" is an adjective there because it describes "he", not "eating the pizza". – Araucaria Sep 27 '15 at 22:40

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