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The sentence is: "After a while she got up from where she was and went over the little garden field entire."

A quote from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

I want to know if the word "entire" is a flat adverb, a postpositive adjective, a noun alternative for entirety, or some other part of speech in the bolded sentence above.

Thank you for reading. I hope you will respond and share your thoughts with me.

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  • 6
    It seems to me like it's a postpartitive adjective, like "the city entire". To me, it doesn't feel like that follows the American grammatical rules for flat adverbs (which I wish some grammarian would write down, rather than just arguing about whether flat adverbs are grammatical). May 30, 2018 at 19:44
  • 1
    The anastrophe (unusual word sequence) makes this a little more difficult Mar 27, 2019 at 15:35
  • 3
    It seems more like an adjective than an adverb. The meaning of the sentence "...she went over the entire little garden field" seems more like the meaning of the original than "...she went entirely over the the little garden field". I think this is related to the fact that 'entire' in the original is much closer to the nouns than the verb. Also the structure of the original very similar to "When I was young I courted a lady fair" where "fair" is definitely an adjective"
    – BoldBen
    Apr 27, 2019 at 13:02
  • It's a (here partly postpositive) determiner phrase. 'The whole' and 'the entire' in this usage don't specify attributes of the referent, but how much is under consideration. Mar 27, 2021 at 18:39
  • See also: galore. May 31, 2021 at 4:51

3 Answers 3

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It's a postpositive adjective, poetically reversed from its noun. It's essentially the same as:

the entire garden field

There's nothing else entire could really be modifying here.

The collision with little makes it awkward in its normal position (the entire, little garden field), since it's such a different function from the other adjective. One is describing the field itself while the other is qualifying the portion of the field walked over.

In the UK, it shows up a lot in poetry: swapping the noun and adjective can give a nice flavour, and it can help with rhyming. Something like:

He stood atop the grasses green

And sometimes you run into funny constructions like St. Michaels Without or the demon within.

To Save the World Entire.

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    I don't think outside is an adjective in I want a table outside. In traditional grammar, it's an adverb. In more recent grammars, it's a preposition that doesn't take any complement.
    – JK2
    Jul 10, 2021 at 3:05
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According to Britannica:

Zora Neale Hurston (born January 7, 1891, Notasulga, Alabama, U.S.—died January 28, 1960, Fort Pierce, Florida), American folklorist and writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance who celebrated the African American culture of the rural South.

Zora Neale Hurston was a scholar whose ethnographic research made her a pioneer writer of “folk fiction” about the black South, making her a prominent writer in the Harlem Renaissance. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) is her most celebrated novel.

Zora Neale Hurston attended Howard University from 1921 to 1924 before winning a scholarship to Barnard College to study anthropology under Franz Boas. After graduating from Barnard, she pursued graduate studies in anthropology at Columbia University.

Also from the book is this sentence (right before the sentence of the OP):

Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.

Note that the adjectives remorseless sweet are placed after the noun pain, which I find strange. I would have placed them before the noun:

Then Janie felt a remorseless sweet pain that left her limp and languid.

She was highly educated, so it's most logical to treat this style of putting adjectives after the modified noun as a characteristic of her time. (I'm just guessing here, so let me know if this is not correct.)

Indeed, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by H&P defines "Present-day English" as follows:

Modern English is generally defined by historians of English to be the English used from 1776 onwards. The recent part of the latter period (say, since the Second World War) can be called Present-day English. Linguistic changes have occurred in the grammar of English during the Modern English period, and even during the last half-century. Our central aim is to describe Present-day English in its standard form.

So the linguistic changes that occurred during the last half-century might be the answer to the placement of the adjective entire after the noun field.

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Merriam-Webster includes this sense in its definition of entire:

(noun) archaic : the whole : ENTIRETY

Here, entire is a noun which has the alternative meaning of "entirety." It sounds like this matches its use in your example sentence.

As a paraphrase:

After a while she got up from where she was and went over the little garden field in its entirety.

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  • So which of the OP's definitions do you think it is ?
    – Nigel J
    May 30, 2018 at 18:30
  • Well, MW says that 'entirety' is a noun. The question asks what 'entire' is in the context of the sentence. So you think 'entire' is a 'noun alternative'.
    – Nigel J
    May 30, 2018 at 18:37

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