I know that by definition, 'triumphant' is an adjective and 'triumphantly' is the adverb form, but I've seen usages like the following sentence:

Napoleon returned triumphant to France after the war he fought and won in Italy

Here, the term 'triumphant' is being used as an adverb. I know by grammar, adjectives cannot be used to enhance verbs, but I've also heard about exceptions where general grammar doesn't work. I'm not sure whether this would be one of the exceptions.

Now, is this usage correct?

  • 5
    It's an adjective describing Napoleon.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 24, 2016 at 4:10
  • 2
    I think "triumphant" here is an adjective, describing the triumphant state in which he returned, and not an adverb describing the triumphant manner in which he returned. But maybe someone has a more technical explanation. Jun 24, 2016 at 4:10
  • See, on ELL, Is it possible to use adjectives as adverbs? Jun 24, 2016 at 4:37
  • 1
    The usage is fine. "Triumphant" is an adjective in your example. It's not modifying the verb like the adverb "triumphantly" would; rather, it is functioning predicatively, ascribing the property of being triumphant to the subject "Napoleon". It's called a predicative adjunct.
    – BillJ
    Jun 24, 2016 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


The sentence is syntactically identical to "Triumphant Napoleon returned to France...", except that the adjective "triumphant" (modifying "Napoleon") has been placed in a less familiar location.

One of the reasons that distinct adverbial versions of many adjectives exist is so that one can easily discriminate between usage as an adjective or usage as an adverb. (Of course, there are other adjectives that do not have a distinct adverbial form, making such discrimination for those adjectives more difficult.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.