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  1. This person wrote exciting stories for teens. [Does 'for teens' modify 'exciting stories' or 'wrote'? Is 'for teens' an adverbial phrase or an adjective phrase?]

  2. She is a cook at a Chinese restaurant. [Does 'at a Chinese restaurant' modify 'a cook'? Can't it modify the verb 'is'? Is 'at a Chinese restaurant' an adjective phrase? Or can it be an adverbial phrase?]

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  1. You can't tell what for teens modifies.

Consider the following two sentences:

She wrote exciting stories for reading aloud.
She wrote exciting stories for money.

For reading aloud modifies stories, because she wrote for reading aloud doesn't really make much sense. (You'd probably say she wrote to be read aloud instead.

For money modifies wrote, since exciting stories for money doesn't make much sense.

But in the OP's sentence, for teens could modify either stories or wrote, since both stories for teens and wrote for teens are reasonable. So it's ambiguous (not that it makes much difference to the meaning in this case).

  1. In this case, at a Chinese restaurant almost certainly modifies a cook.

Why? Because we understand this sentence to mean she works as a cook for a Chinese restaurant. If the sentence were

She is a politician at a Chinese restaurant,

then you could argue that at a Chinese restaurant modifies is. But almost nobody would understand the original sentence to mean she is a cook who happens to be at a Chinese restaurant, so in this case, we can safely say that context tells us that at a Chinese restaurant modifies cook.

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    I would say that at a Chinese restaurant modifies neither the copula is nor its noun phrase complement a cook, but the entire verb phrase is a cook. In “A cook at a Chinese restaurant was found murdered in her home last night”, it modifies the noun phrase, but here it makes more sense to say it’s the VP. Similarly, for teens would either modify wrote or the VP wrote exciting stories. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 23 '18 at 17:53
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This person wrote exciting stories for teens.

Does 'for teens' modify 'exciting stories' or 'wrote'? Is 'for teens' an adverbial phrase or an adjective phrase?

It's an adjective phrase. "What did she write?" The answer to a "what" question must be a noun: "Books for teens."

She is a cook at a Chinese restaurant.

  • Does 'at a Chinese restaurant' modify 'a cook'? Yes.
  • Is 'at a Chinese restaurant' an adjective phrase? Yes. It is a phrase describing "cook". If the sentence were "She is at a Chinese restaurant", then "at a Chinese restaurant" would be an adjective phrase modifying "she".
  • Can't it modify the verb 'is'? No. (This is also why it cannot be an adverb phrase.) An adverb phrase in a sentence like this would be something like: "She is without a doubt a cook."
  • But what exactly is the grammatical difference between "She wrote exciting stories for teens" and "She wrote exciting stories for money"? Because for money is clearly an adverbial phrase in the second one. – Peter Shor Oct 24 '18 at 11:32
  • Ooh, good point. I think in "for money", it answers the question, "Why did she write?" And the answer is "for [the purpose of getting] money". You could have "She wrote for teens", and in that case "for teens" would be an adverb phrase, but the sentence now means something else. Further evidence of this I think is that you can imagine a sign in a bookshop section: "Books for Teens". It's a noun phrase (noun + adjective phrase). – Anthony M Oct 24 '18 at 11:40

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