I have students who are analyzing of H.G Wells' 'War of the Worlds'. They have been commenting on the following sentence: "I stood petrified and staring."

Some have said petrified acts as an adjective, modifying "I". Others have said it is an adverb, modifying the verb "stood".

Who is correct? Or are both/neither correct? Is it something completely different that I have never heard of?

many thanks!

  • It is an adjective functioning as a predicative adjunct referring to the subject "I".
    – BillJ
    May 19, 2017 at 11:44
  • Yes, true but I suspect over their heads. :)
    – Lambie
    May 19, 2017 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


stand is the intransitive verb, and the parts are: stand, stood, stood

He stood in the hall and shouted my name.

If you replace stand by be, you can see how /petrified/ works.

He was petrified.

That is a passive verb formed by be + past participle. And (here's the crucial point), the past participle in English can be used as an adjective. Also, it can be viewed as an adjective to describe the state of he. One can replace an intransitive verb here with the verb be to show that it is intransitive.

In any event for me this can be seen two ways:

1) Adverbially, as it describes how he stood. 2) Adjectivally, as through transformation (the one I did perhaps imperfectly above), one can see it is an adjective and thus can be modifying the I.

Often, one can go at grammar in more than one way. And in some cases, more than one structure can be shown to exist.


In "a petrified man stood", the (passive) participle 'petrified' is used like an adjective to restrict the man.

In "a man stood [,] petrified", that participle is used adverbially to comment on the man's standing (it is nested under the verb, not the subject).

The same rules apply to the (active) participle 'staring'.

  • There is no comma: He stood quietly in the doorway. Same structure as; He stood petrified in the doorway.
    – Lambie
    May 20, 2017 at 16:05
  • "He stood [,] quietly [,] in the doorway." The optional comma[s] were there to show that the word is adverbial (since they do not affect the meaning).
    – AmI
    May 25, 2017 at 19:57

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