An American news article titled "N.J. aquarium welcomes 4 baby penguins, and yes they're insanely cute (PHOTOS)" starts like this:

Eggs have been a-crackin' at Camden's Adventure Aquarium, welcoming four tiny African penguins to the crowd-favorite exhibit, Penguin Island.

The new penguins were hatched in two separate clutches -- the first on Dec. 10 and 14, the second on Dec. 23 and 26.

Adventure Aquarium Curator of Birds and Animals Michele Pagel said the baby birds are very vocal, growing strong, and have great appetites.

Does the context mean that the baby birds are becoming strong?

If not, shouldn't it be "strongly" instead of "strong"?


Alternatively, couldn't it have been "strongly" instead of "strong"? If the writer had intended it to mean that the baby birds are growing quickly (not becoming strong), could he have said, "The baby birds are growing strongly"?

  • 1
    It's a resultative; the adjective describes the ensuing state/s of the referents of the noun. Growing strong / becoming angry / falling ill / getting better ... 'Growing strongly' is perhaps acceptable here with a metaphorical sense of 'strongly' (cf 'Morrisons' sales are growing strongly', ie rapidly and sustainedly), but would be far less usual. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 '17 at 2:28
  • @EdwinAshworth If you're saying that "strong" is more acceptable than "strongly" in the article, let me ask you this. In the "strong" version, what do you think "grow" means? Does it mean "become" or "become larger"? I think it means "become" (not "become larger"). That is, I think that "grow strong" doesn't really fit here. – JK2 Feb 16 '17 at 2:33
  • 2
    'Grow' in 'grow strong' means 'become'. There are many Google hits for 'grew strong', and more for 'grew stronger'. AHD sense 7: 7. To come to be by a gradual process or by degrees; become: grow angry; grow closer. // Think also of grow dark/er; grow lighter; grow weaker. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 '17 at 2:40
  • The sentence should have been quoted like either: Adventure Aquarium Curator of Birds and Animals Michele Pagel said, " the baby birds are very vocal, growing strong, and have great appetites". or Adventure Aquarium Curator of Birds and Animals Michele Pagel said that the baby birds were very vocal, growing strong, and had great appetites. – mahmud k pukayoor Feb 16 '17 at 4:47
  • Re your edit: yes, if you wanted to attribute strong growth to the birds you could say "growing strongly". Simpler and more common would be just "growing well" – Chris H Feb 16 '17 at 8:12

In this context, 'birds are growing strong' does not mean exactly the same as 'birds are growing up fast/quickly/strongly etc'. The word 'strong' is an adjective.

(From Michael Swan's Practical English Usage):

'Grow' is used before adjectives especially to talk about slow and gradual changes. It is more formal than get or go, and can sound a little old-fashioned or literary".

Without noticing it he grew old.

When they grew rich they began to drop their old friends.

As the weather grow colder, your thoughts naturally turn to winter holidays in the sun.

| improve this answer | |
  • Could you please answer my second question(shouldn't it be "strongly" instead of "strong"?)? And also, the question in my EDIT? – JK2 Feb 16 '17 at 5:32
  • @JK2:It's understood from the context and words the speaker used that his intention was to talk about the 'slow and steady' growth of the birds. The adverb 'strongly' does not have a meaning similar to quickly, rapidly or anything related to speed. If he had intended the quick growth, he could have used an adverb having such meanings. – mahmud k pukayoor Feb 16 '17 at 8:58
  • Synonyms of 'strongly' from Merriam-Webster:" dynamically, energetically, explosively, firmly, forcefully, forcibly, mightily, muscularly, powerfully, roundly, stiffly, stoutly, strenuously, hard, sturdily, vigorously". – mahmud k pukayoor Feb 16 '17 at 9:09
  • From the same dictionary, Related Words: "fiercely, hammer and tongs, robustly, roughshod, sharply, vehemently, violently; actively, animatedly, briskly, crisply, eagerly, gamely, heartily, lustily, snappily, spiritedly, spunkily, vivaciously; decidedly, determinedly, directly, emphatically, fast, fixedly, intensively, intently, purposefully, resolutely, rigidly, smartly, solidly, soundly, squarely, steadfastly, steadily, sturdily, surely; aggressively, assertively, manfully, potently." – mahmud k pukayoor Feb 16 '17 at 9:11

It comes down to what word they're trying to describe.

In this context, "strong" indicates just what you said: the birds are becoming strong. Here, "strong" is an adjective that applies to the noun "birds." The sentence is grammatically correct if the creator's intent is to say that the birds are getting strong.

"Strongly" is the adverb form, so it applies to an adjective or a verb. In this case, it would refer to the verb "growing." If the intent is to describe the growing itself, "strongly" would be the way to go.

The sentence's structure is lacking parallelism, leaving it sounding/looking awkward. However, I digress, as that wasn't your question. : ) I hope I've answered your actual question suitably.

| improve this answer | |
  • If the intent were to describe the growing itself, could the writer have said instead, "the baby birds are growing strongly"? – JK2 Feb 16 '17 at 5:33
  • Yes. The phrase "the baby birds are growing strongly" indicates that the growing itself is strong. – NenyaQueen Feb 16 '17 at 17:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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