You did me wrong.

In that sentence, is wrong an adverb or some other part of speech? I don’t understand the syntactic construction being used here.

  • 1
    The other way to say this is 'You wronged me', where 'wronged' is clearly a verb.One may also say 'You did wrongfully towards me' where 'wrongfully' is clearly an adverb. – Nigel J May 16 at 16:06
  • 2
    Some verbs take adjectives - I feel good is not the same as I feel well; he acted bad is not the same as he acted badly. To do right and to do wrong are similar, I would think, so in you did wrong by me or you did me wrong I would say wrong is an adjective. – user339660 May 16 at 17:12
  • @Minty If wrong were an adjective here, then it could be negated by not, but the resulting sentence is ungrammatical: “You did me ᕯnot wrong.” Instead, the correctly negated sentence is “You did me no wrong”, proving beyond doubt that wrong can only be a noun not an adjective here. – tchrist May 18 at 17:22
  • @tchrist Yes, that seems reasonable, but then why doesn't it need an article? Could it be that you did me no wrong is actually the negation of you did me a wrong, which is obviously very close in meaning to you did me wrong, but may not be the same syntactically? – user339660 May 18 at 17:45
  • ... well maybe it's just a mass noun. Doesn't feel like one though. I can see that you did us proud is different, but I can't make my mind up how different. – user339660 May 18 at 18:12

Like Toothrot, I would consider this use of wrong to be a noun. For at least some speakers, it can be negated with no, as "You did me no wrong" (e.g. in some translations of Galatians 4:12). If wrong were an adjective or adverb in this sentence, we wouldn't expect this kind of negation to be possible.

Similarly structured expressions (although they have different meanings) are "to do one good" and "to do one harm".

There was a previous question asking about why people say "to do one wrong": The grammatical strangeness of "done me wrong" and "did me service"

  • I feel that this answer and those you linked to answer stand to benefit greatly by first citing OED sense 3 of do (and probably also subsense 3a), along with the note there that explains the OE-dative / ModE-indirect object versus the OE-accusative / ModE-direct object. – tchrist May 18 at 17:07
  • The note I'm referring to is: Originally with the recipient or person affected as indirect object (in Old English in the dative), and that which is imparted or caused as direct object (in Old English in the accusative): e.g. ‘it did him credit’. In later use also with to and prepositional object: e.g. ‘it did credit to his good sense’. The original sense here appears to have been that of putting (or bestowing) something to a person, and therefore closely related to sense 1, in which a person is put to or into something. – tchrist May 18 at 17:09
  • And here are do senses 3 and 3a: 3. transitive. To bestow, impart, grant, render, give (a thing to a person); to cause to befall or come. a. To impart to, bring upon (a person, etc.) some affecting quality or condition; to bestow, confer, inflict; to cause (a person) by one's action to have (something). In later use, associated more closely with the notion of performance, as in sense 4, e.g. to do (a person) a service, to perform some action that is of service to (a person). – tchrist May 18 at 17:11

wrong is here a noun, or, if you will, an adjective used as a noun.

You did (unto) me (a) wrong.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.