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"I'm fine, thanks!" From a strict grammatical perspective, is "fine" an adjective or an adverb in this particular sentence? Thank you!

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  • Could we make this into a more general question about whether the complement following a copula modifies the verb (so it's an adverb) or the subject (so it's an adjective)? I don't think we have a question about that yet, which is a bit surprising. [Of course, the answer may be that it's neither an adjective nor an adverb.]
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 13, 2015 at 8:48
  • I am afraid the EL&U format does not lend itself easily to this kind of questions, which tend to pop up quite often (english.stackexchange.com/q/267178/105642, english.stackexchange.com/q/77769/105642, english.stackexchange.com/q/247091/105642, and many more). The topic seems to require a comprehensive essay, rather than Q&A; we do seem to get varied and inconclusive answers here (but for the watchful efforts of @Araucaria, of course :).
    – anemone
    Nov 13, 2015 at 9:59

2 Answers 2

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It's an adjective functioning as a Predicative Complement. A Predicative Complement is a Complement of the verb that describes the Subject or Object. In this case it is describing the Subject. Predicative Complements can be noun phrases, adjective phrases and preposition phrases, but hardy ever - if ever at all - adverbs.

The reason we use an adjective phrase here is that this phrase is describing a noun phrase. Modifiers of noun phrases are usually adjectives, not adverbs. Consider the following examples:

  • I'm happy.
  • I'm cold.
  • I'm assiduous.
  • *I'm happily. (adverb as PC, ungrammatical)
  • *I'm coldly. (adverb as PC, ungrammatical)
  • *I'm assiduously. (adverb as PC, ungrammatical)
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Here it's an adjective, meaning "in good health" or "OK":

fine /faɪn/ adjective

in good health SYN OK:

‘How are you?’ ‘Fine, thanks, how are you?’

(Longman)

However, in "I'm doing fine" fine is an adverb, as it modifies a verb.

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  • My confusion probably stems from the alternative answers: "I'm good" and "I'm well", both discussed previously.
    – user146059
    Nov 13, 2015 at 9:12
  • "I'm well" means the same thing (in good health). Here "well" is an adjective, as it describes the subject: ldoceonline.com/dictionary/well_3
    – A.P.
    Nov 13, 2015 at 9:18

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