Little House on the Prairie contains the following sentence: "Santa Claus had the longest, thickest, whitest set of whiskers west of the Mississippi."

Is "west" acting as an adverb that modifies "had"?

  • Are you trying to understand the meaning of the sentence, or analyze the grammar? Jan 11, 2020 at 6:44
  • Do you really think I don't understand the meaning of the sentence?
    – TFlo83
    Jan 11, 2020 at 6:50
  • 2
    I don't know -- sometimes I guess wrong. Many people who ask questions here are non-native speakers with limited understanding of the meanings of common constructions. Jan 11, 2020 at 7:11
  • Non-native speaker or not, I'm not sure what part of the topic sentence or the post itself indicates that I don't understand the meaning of the sentence. I'm being pretty specific about wanting to know something about the grammatical function of "west", not its meaning.
    – TFlo83
    Jan 11, 2020 at 7:20
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    Nothing in the question or your comments indicates you don't understand the meaning of the sentence, but neither is there clear confirmation that you do understand it. I've certainly seen questions here where somebody asked about a specific grammar thing but then it turned out their understanding of the meaning was wrong - note I'm not saying that's the case here, I think you do understand, I'm just adding to Mike's explanation of why it's not unreasonable to ask.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 11, 2020 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


"West" modifies "set". Which "set"? The "set west of the Mississippi".

  • Ah, OK. So it's functioning as an adjective modifying "set"?
    – TFlo83
    Jan 11, 2020 at 6:49
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    The sentence is describing a set of whiskers, not the set of whiskers. There are other sets West of the Mississippi.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 11, 2020 at 6:51
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    @nnnnnn There are other sets West of the Mississippi. But Santa has the (longest / thickest / whitest / west of the Mississippi) set.
    – user312440
    Jan 11, 2020 at 7:00
  • @TFlo83 yes. an adjective. It would also be correct to add "that were" before "west" to create the adjective clause "... set of whiskers that were west of the Mississippi." And, then the antecedent for "that" is "set".
    – user312440
    Jan 11, 2020 at 7:05
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    @EdwinAshworth Consider, perhaps, a longer whiz-deletion: the whitest whiskers that were to the west of the Mississippi. Now what do you make of west in that construction? Could this be an NP used as an adverbial?
    – tchrist
    Jan 12, 2020 at 5:24

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