Joe is the student with the highest grade

With the highest grade is an adjective phrase modifying student, with "with" being a preposition and "highest" being the adjective.

But in the following sentence:

He played baseball with great care

With great care is the adjective phrase, but I cannot figure out the head adjective: a) is it great or care? b) great could be a degree adverb describing the intensity of the adjective care. One could say care was noun, but if I changed it to:

He played baseball with care

a) Care isn't a noun is it? The phrase "with care" is describing how the noun "baseball" is being played with.

Or if I were to make other sentences such as:

He played baseball with the greatest care

In the above, there is less ambiguity (greatest) is the superlative form - so this must be the head adjective while care could be construed as noun because it has a determiner, the.

Of course, if I removed greatest:

He played baseball with the care...

Then "with the care" wouldn't make sense unless I added more things in it, such as:

He played baseball with the care one would pay his grandmother

  • With great care is an adverbial (not adjectival) phrase, modifying the verb played. The "head" word is care, which could be approximated as the single-word adverb carefully. Compare with joy, joyfully. Also compare I ate peas with rice ("adjectival", if you like; modifies peas) and I ate dinner with her (adverbial, modifies ate). – FumbleFingers Jun 6 '18 at 17:03
  • "With" is a preposition, so "with the highest grade" is not an adjective phrase, but a preposition phrase modifying "student". And in "He played baseball with great care", "with great care" is a preposition phrase functioning as a manner adjunct. – BillJ Jun 6 '18 at 17:49
  • @BillJ: adverbial and adjectivial phrases are types of prepositional phrases – aesking Jun 6 '18 at 17:54
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    @asking They are wrong as any serious grammarian will tell you. – BillJ Jun 6 '18 at 18:06
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    Look: "with great care" is a PP functioning not as an adjective phrase, but as a modifier. To call it an adjective phrase is simply ridiculous. Within the PP, "with" has the NP "great care" as its complement. The PP as a whole describes how the referent of "he" played football, and is thus a manner adjunct. – BillJ Jun 6 '18 at 18:13

"Care" is a noun in all of the sentences that you mention, whether or not it has "the" before it. Many nouns in English can be used without an article: the most obvious examples are "mass nouns", like water, wood, wind, but there are also abstract nouns like advice or information. Another noun that behaves somewhat similarly to care is concern: we frequently use the phrase "with concern" with no article.

Prepositions like "with" generally don't take adjectives or adjective phrases as complements. Note that we can say things like "He played baseball with (great) passion", but not things like "*He played baseball with great passionate".

I can't even think of any context where "care" would be an adjective. It can be a noun or a verb.

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  • You could have he was caring, but then that's just a present participle and not the same as "care". Or in with the greatest care of affection is care still a noun? – aesking Jun 6 '18 at 17:25
  • @aesking: "with the greatest care of affection" looks strange to me. If I heard it spoken, I would probably think the speaker had said "with the greatest care and affection", which seems a much more probable phrase to me. But in either case, "care" would be a noun. – herisson Jun 6 '18 at 17:27
  • Yes the use is quite unheard of in utterances and is more typically found in formal, outdated prose but not improbable. Some would say "care" is an attributive modifier; see similar. Especially of abstract words such as natural (e.g. He was a natural vs It was a natural thing to do) and human. – aesking Jun 6 '18 at 17:39
  • @sumelic if adjectivals count, maybe care package... – Jas. MacOisdealbha Jun 6 '18 at 17:46
  • I think "the greatest care of affection" is a fixed modifier head but I'm not sure. @Jas "Care package" is a compounded noun, with care being nominalised as a modifier/noun. – aesking Jun 6 '18 at 17:50

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