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I am trying to translate a sentence from Turkish to English. I'm almost satisfied and it is something along the lines of

A black car kicking up clouds of dust was seen heading to the city from a distant road.

However, in Turkish, the act of "kicking up clouds of dust" is an adverb of the verb "heading", so it qualifies the verb and not the car itself. In other words, the way the car moves along the road is by kicking up clouds of dust, so it is heading to the city by kicking up clouds of dust. Do you think there's a way to make it into an adverb? Or maybe a phrasal verb that catches the essence of those two actions, both heading somewhere and kicking up clouds of dust? The verb "heading" is not mandatory, it can be "arriving", "coming" or something else that matches the meaning, and the meaning is the car is going towards the city and is arriving/about to arrive at its final destination.

The best I can come up with is

A black car at a distant road was seen heading to the city by kicking up clouds of dust.

but using "by" to connect those to actions seems like cheating and makes me feel I'm thinking in Turkish and not in English.

For the curious, this is the original sentence (maybe it helps)

Uzaktaki yoldan siyah bir otomobilin tozu dumana katarak şehre geldiği görüldü.

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  • I like your question, but we require a minimum of research...the context is awesome. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:27
  • @Cascabel thanks! any suggestions as to how I can make the question more answerable? What do you mean when you say you require minimum of research?
    – akaralar
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:29
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    A beautifully composed and explained question. Your “best I can come up with” is flawed by ambiguity or ellipsis; dont’t use it.
    – Anton
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 7:51
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    Problem is that we in the UK seldom see cars kicking up dust - they are more likely to be churning around in mud.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 7:13
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    You might say "A car travelling dustily in the direction of the city" but it is not a standard use of the adverb, probably would not be recognised immediately, and would only be really acceptable in a piece of creative writing, not in simple reportage.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 15:05

5 Answers 5

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TL/DR: Skip to the end for the answer (everything in between is explanation of how to get there)


Your original sentence is,

A black car kicking up clouds of dust was seen heading to the city from a distant road.

where the phrase "kicking up clouds of dust" is used as an adjective modifying car. If I understand your question correctly, you want this specific phrase to be used as an adverb instead, to modify the verb which signifies the car's motion (which is "heading" in the original sentence).

This can definitely be done! The phrase itself is usable as either an adjective or an adverb: the reason it's interpreted as modifying "car" instead of the verb is that it is currently positioned right after the word "car." Modifiers usually modify the word they're closest to.

To change this, we can try moving the phrase directly after the verb instead of the noun:

A black car was seen heading, kicking up clouds of dust, to the city from a distant road.

In this version, the phrase introduced by "kicking" has been transformed from an adjective into an adverb by its repositioning next to the verb. The result is a technically valid sentence in English, but I wouldn't use it because it sounds awkward.

Why does it sound awkward? I think it's because there are too many modifiers all scrunched together at the end of the sentence. "kicking up clouds of dust" modifies "heading" adverbially, but so does the prepositional phrase "to the city" - and now it has been separated by the intervening phrase. Additionally, "from a distant road" modifies "was seen" earlier on in the sentence, but the separation makes the meaning of the sentence unclear! Because "from a distant road" is closer to "heading" than to "was seen," people will assume that it's supposed to modify "heading" (as I did when I first read the sentence). But a car can't be traveling towards somewhere from a road, so your intended meaning (I would assume) is actually that the observer who saw the car saw it "from the distant road."

Now, I'll try to fix those problems while keeping the adverb role for the phrase you were asking about:

A black car was seen from a distant road, heading kicking up clouds of dust to the city.

That still doesn't sound right, but now because of a different reason: "to the city" follows "kicking up dust," which makes it look like "to the city" modifies "dust" instead of "heading." If that were true, the meaning would be that the car's dust cloud extends all the way from the car to the city! Also not your intended meaning, so how can we fix this?

How about,

From a distant road, a black car was seen as it headed, kicking up clouds of dust, towards the city.

Moving "From a distant road" to the front of the sentence gets it out of the way, and also makes it clear that it should modify "was seen" and not "headed." The commas around the phrase "kicking up clouds of dust" set it apart from "towards the city," so it can't be misinterpreted as dust that goes all the way to the city. I also made some minor "cosmetic changes": replacing "heading" with "as it headed" avoids the awkward-sounding repetition of two consecutive words in the same form, while changing the preposition from "to" to "towards" more clearly implies motion.


So, in conclusion, you might want to consider rearranging your sentence to:

From a distant road, a black car was seen as it headed, kicking up clouds of dust, towards the city.

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    thanks for such an elaborate explanation, makes sense and I like the end result!
    – akaralar
    Commented Aug 20, 2023 at 19:14
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I'm not sure what the sense is here. English doesn't require a lot of agreement among the parts of a sentence, so it sometimes requires restructuring for clarity. English is also notorious for its "dangling modifiers". Here are a few options. I'm not sure if either of them capture the meaning you are looking for:

  1. A black car, seen from a distant road, kicked up clouds of dust as it headed to the city.
  2. A black car kicked up clouds of dust as it headed to the city from a distant road.
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In English, we tend to relate to the cause of something (cause and effect). Hence your

car kicking up clouds of dust.

But this is not the only way to describe the scene. We can also use (effect and implied cause).

A cloud of dust hung above a distant road, as a/the black car sped towards the city.

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  • Not sure if they say sped or speeded in the states.
    – Brad
    Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 10:29
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    I find myself saying 'The car speeded up' but 'The car sped up the hill'. Commented Sep 9, 2021 at 11:26
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Switching bits around:

A black car kicking up clouds of dust was seen speeding towards the city on a road in the distance. Better now. :)

'Distant road' is not good here. It's a road in the distance.

Sorry, I just repositioned the bits and changed two things. I tried to follow the logic of someone viewing this from above such as standing on a cliff or rock outcropping overlooking the scene.

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A black car on a distant road was seen heading, amid clouds of dust, to the city.

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