This is a famous line from Star Wars:

(1) I have a bad feeling about this.

In that sentence, what exactly does the prepositional phrase 'about this' post-modify?

In other words, is it an adjective phrase or an adverb phrase?


For those of you who argue that it's an adjective phrase and fail to provide any rebuttal to the argument that it can also be an adverb phrase, I present this sentence:

(2) I feel bad about this.

Which I think can mean the same thing as (1).

Now, in (2), the prepositional phrase "about this" clearly functions as an adverb phrase. If so, how could you possibly argue that the same prepositional phrase cannot be construed as functioning as an adverb phrase in (1) as well?

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    I don't want to answer this. – Ricky Jan 20 '16 at 2:29
  • If you don't want to answer it, you certainly can not answer it. I wonder why anyone would say that out loud in a comment. Just wondering. And the person who would up-vote that comment? Just beyond me. – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 2:38
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    There are more things in heav'n and earth, Horatio. – Ricky Jan 20 '16 at 3:10
  • It's a feeling about "this". "Feeling" is being modified. – Hot Licks Jan 20 '16 at 3:16
  • @Ricky Throwing around some meaningless quote like you know something when in fact you don't know a thing. Does that somehow make you feel better? And I notice your pathetic 'I don't wanna answer this' line gets one more supporter. Wow, this site is more tragic than Hamlet. – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 13:53

Couldn't it be either?

You can say

The bad feeling that she had about John ...

where it seems to be modifying have.

But you can also say

And yet I couldn't shake a bad feeling about the whole thing,

where it is certainly modifying feeling.

  • +1 for trying the relativization test. But why would you use a different context? I mean, how about comparing the validity of (1) "the bad feeling that I have about this" and (2) "the bad feeling about this that I have"? Do both these work for you? – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 3:27
  • Both of them work, but I didn't think of that example. Very nice! – Peter Shor Jan 20 '16 at 3:33
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    So does this mean that it's unclear what it modifies?? And that you can't even draw a single tree diagram out of it? But that you have two different diagrams for this? – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 3:44

About this is a prepositional phrase that functions as an adjectival (adjective) phrase that post-modifies a noun phrase a bad feeling.

If you say, "I have a bad feeling," people could never know what your bad feeling is about. A bad feeling has not been specified yet.

However, if you include a prepositional phrase, it is specified and people could know what the bad feeling is about.

I have a bad feeling (which is) about this.

The subjective relative pronoun which and the verb be are often times omitted as they could be considered elided. This is just one of grammatical explanations that could shed some light on how a prepositional phrase could post-modify a noun or noun phrase.

The book (which is) on the table is mine.

  • You seem to be talking about only one side of the story. True, a prepositional phrase such as 'about this' can function as an adjectival phrase. But it can an adverbial one as well. You didn't tell me what exactly precludes it from being the latter in the OP's sentence. – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 5:26
  • @JK2 Just because I talked about one side of the story doesn't mean that I didn't explain the prepositional phrase is not an adverbial phrase. What is your definition of an adverbial phrase? You should include your definition in your question. – user140086 Jan 20 '16 at 5:28
  • I don't necessarily have my "own" definition of an adverbial phrase. And I don't think I should. Because it's not up to me to define such a universal term in a way I see fit. I mean, the "adverbial phrase" as you know it is the same as the "adverbial phrase" as I know it, isn't it? Then how come you ask me to include my own definition of it? – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 5:34
  • @JK2 How come you think "about this" could be related with an adverbial phrase when you don't have any definition of an adverbial phrase? Do you know the difference between an adjective and an adverb? – user140086 Jan 20 '16 at 5:39
  • Honestly, I don't know where you're going with this. Are you suggesting that I don't even know what an adverb or an adverbial phrase means? If so, what makes you think that? Have you even looked at the other answer by Peter Shor, who basically says that he can't decide if it's an adjective or adverbial phrase? – JK2 Jan 20 '16 at 5:43

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