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Could this clause be interpreted in both Adverbial clause and noun clause?

Maria will tell you when David gets home - In this one, Maria says that she will tell someone when David gets home.

Maria will tell you when David gets home - In this one, Maria says that she will tell her friend something only when David gets home.

These both are examples of adverbial and noun clauses, the first one is a noun clause (When David gets home is the direct object of the verb tell) and the second one is an adverbial clause.

Could they be possible confused? I guess the only way to differ both would be if it were: Maria will tell you it when David gets home - since "it" is the direct object.

  • Yes, they are ambiguous. Whatever the meaning, grammatically the expression "when David gets home" is not an object (the object of "tell" is "you"), but a temporal adjunct in clause structure. – BillJ Feb 19 '17 at 16:59
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    @Billj - I think you are wrong about the object. You is the indirect object of the verb Tell. – Haseo Feb 19 '17 at 17:01
  • In "Maria will tell you when David gets home", there is only one object, "you", so it must be a direct object. The phrase "when David gets home" is not an object, but an adjunct. It informs us when Maria will be telling you. – BillJ Feb 19 '17 at 17:09
  • But, a sentence can't have an indirect object without also having a direct object. – Just Someone Feb 19 '17 at 17:09
  • @BillJ - When David gets home is the direct object of the verb Tell, noun clauses function as subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, predicate nouns, adjective complements and object of preposition. thefreedictionary.com/Noun-Clauses.htm Therefore: **Maria will tell when David gets home to you Maria will tell you when David gets home ** They are the same. – Haseo Feb 19 '17 at 17:13
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They can be interpreted in both ways, yes. If you want to avoid confusion between the two, perhaps consider rearranging the second instance to: "When David gets home, Maria will tell you". This has a stronger emphasis on the time (the official word for this escapes me). The English language relies heavily on context and emphasis to convey different meanings so I think you can use these without too much worry of confusion.

  • Thank you. I also thought so. Since adverbial clauses are dependent clauses (.i.e: can't stand alone), inverting the placement and adding comma would imply that it's an adverbial clause: When David gets home, I will tell you. – Haseo Feb 20 '17 at 0:44

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