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There is a problem that I have with these sentences.

He returned home drunk.

and

Many of the candidates came into the room thinking they were just going to be talking about access to buildings.

I've seen native speakers use this type of grammar a lot and I've been using it, too. However, I'm not sure what its name is and how it works. Back in high school, as I was taught, those sentences should be like this.

He returned home and was drunk.

and

Many of the candidates came into the room and thought they were just going to be talking about access to buildings.

Can somebody explain to me why we put an adjective or a verb-ing right after the verb?

2 Answers 2

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He returned home drunk.

"Drunk" is a predicative adjunct. It’s predicative because it refers to a predicand, i.e. the subject "he" (who was drunk). And it’s an adjunct because it is an optional element in clause structure modifying the verb phrase “returned home". English permits depictive adjuncts to be placed inside the verb phrase even though they refer to a predicand, usually the noun phrase subject or object.

Many of the candidates came into the room [thinking they were just going to be talking about access to buildings].

The same principle applies here. The bracketed clause headed by the verb "thinking" is a depictive adjunct giving descriptive information about "many of the candidates". It is interpreted with progressive aspectuality, compare: "Many of the candidates were thinking they were just going …"

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Both options are acceptable, and they mean mostly the same thing, with some trivial details:

In your first examples, the adjective is describing how the person performed the action. How did he come home? Drunk. How did many of the candidates come into the room? thinking they were just going to be talking...

In your second examples, the adjective is separated from the action by a conjunction, so there is less of an implication that the two parts happened simultaneously.

For instance, based on the second example, the candidates might have come into the room and then thought they were just going to be talking... Whereas the first example implies that they were thinking as they came into the room.

Likewise, in the first example, "he came home drunk," there is an implication that as he came home, he was drunk. "He came home and was drunk" implies only that he came home, and then at some point either simultaneously or not, he was also drunk.

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