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I have the sentence: "Profits from abread are down because of a recession in Japan. However, our performance overall has been good, and revenues have increased."

I'd like to know, what type of speech does "overall" have in this sentence.

Personally, I think that "performance" is noun acting like an adjective and "overall" should be noun. Am I wrong? Could you help me, please?

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  • Possible duplicate of Do the adjectives always precedes the noun or pronoun?
    – Spencer
    Mar 12, 2017 at 17:38
  • I don't see why this use of "overall" shouldn't be considered adjectival, cf. "I'm worried about our overall performance / performance overall". There are a few other adjectives than can occur as postmodifiers, e.g., "the only modification possible"; those responsible"; "everything useful". Adverbs can modify nouns, but only postpositively, so I wonder if a case can be made for "overall " being an adverb here.
    – BillJ
    Mar 12, 2017 at 19:06
  • @BillJ Well, that is a possibility, i.e. that it is actually an adjective. The point I'm trying to make is that we have "overall performance = general performance," while "performance overall = performance in general," and that makes me think "overall" after the noun may be an adverb, placed in that position for the reasons I mentioned in my answer.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 19:09
  • @BillJ Please see comments below Gustavsons answer. Different references seem to have different opinions on this usage. Mar 12, 2017 at 19:11
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    @Cascabel I never trust dictionaries when it comes to grammar! "Overall" is clearly an adverb in Overall, our performance has been good, and in Our performance has been good, overall, where in both cases it's an adjunct in clause structure. In the OP's example, the meaning and function seem the same whether it's used attributively or postpositively, i.e. that of an adjective modifying "performance: "our performance in total, taking everything into account".
    – BillJ
    Mar 12, 2017 at 19:30

2 Answers 2

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"overall" there is not an adjective but an adverb, as it can be assimilated to "in general" and can also be placed at the beginning or at the end of the clause without any change of meaning:

  • Overall, our performance has been good.
  • Our performance has been good, overall.

The writer probably decided to place it in mid position because there is "However" at the beginning and there is another clause after the one containing the word in question, so placing it at the beginning or at the end as is usually the case with the adverb "overall" would have clashed with the elements mentioned.

If it were an adjective, it would have been placed before the noun: Our overall performance has been good.

See, among others, these examples of the adverb "overall" after the noun here: http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/overall

• There are more women in positions of power-though their numbers overall are still pitifully few.

• Six out of 10 Labour supporters, and 69 % of voters overall, opposed joining the euro.

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  • Adjectives are not always placed before the noun Mar 12, 2017 at 18:21
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    @Cascabel I know, but I don't think that is the case with "overall".
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 18:22
  • This is confusing. The Longman you reference has it as adjective prepositive, but the Cambridge has it as adverb [before noun] ! Mar 12, 2017 at 18:55
  • @Cascabel An adverb before a noun! First time I see this. I just can't believe it. Let's look for other references.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 18:58
  • MW Learners has "overall" as an adjective only before the noun. My impression is that postpositive use is incorrect. It is quite possible that is what your Longman reference had in mind. Mar 12, 2017 at 19:05
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The word performance is a noun; overall, correspondingly, is the adjective. Performance can never be used as the latter, and, likewise, overall is purely a descriptive term—it may be used as either an adjective or an adverb, but its use as a noun is incorrect.

Personally, I prefer overall performance to performance overall. It may or may not be considered a significant grammatical error, though I’d still modify the sentence—simply because, as it is now, people are liable to make the same (or otherwise similar) mistake.

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  • There are many examples of '[our etc] peformance overall' on the internet, and it doesn't seem to invite misinterpretations. I'd say it's an idiomatic usage. May 13, 2017 at 10:22

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