In many examples of modern grammar, the five key components of clause structure are defined as subjects, objects, verbs, complements, and adjuncts. My question is simple: do subjuncts, disjuncts (sentence adverbials), and conjuncts (conjunctive adverbials) fall under the categorisation of adjunct?

I have been trying to develop my understanding of these so that I can comfortably identify them when I see them (subjuncts are the most difficult for me); however, I want to know whether I am wasting my time. I am not trying to become a linguist—I just want to improve the quality of my writing.

For example, should I simply call a disjunct a supplementary adjunct when I see one? I know that it's grammatical, and I can identify its function (conveying the viewpoint of the writer). It would seem that I may have reached the point of diminishing returns.

In the answers to this question, I am looking for a functional breakdown of these categories, not the words themselves. I want to identify whether 'adjunct' is a catch-all term.

  • What research have you done? junct is the base term, the others are prefixes.
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2022 at 20:00
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    Adverbials: adjuncts, disjuncts, subjuncts and conjuncts It's all there. eltconcourse.com/training/inservice/lexicogrammar/…
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2022 at 21:33
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    @MJAda user BillJ's nomenclature is found in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston & Pullum).
    – LPH
    Feb 27, 2022 at 17:02
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    @LPH It should be noted that H&P have an unfortunate tendency to redefine existing terms to mean something entirely different (e.g. "preposition"). This can make it difficult to translate back and forth between idiosyncratic CGELisms and the ordinary terminology of traditional grammar. So you have two choices: accept H&P's analysis but try to turn it back into something recognizable, or try to persuade everyone to adopt H&P's terminology.
    – alphabet
    Mar 24 at 0:26
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    (In general I prefer the former approach, BillJ the latter, but I don't think that there's a "right" answer here.)
    – alphabet
    Mar 24 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


From the asker's comments:

My confusion came about after reading some replies on this forum in relation to other questions. BillJ, who has helped me understand a lot, called them all adjuncts.

BillJ's terminology comes from Huddleston & Pullum's The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. The answer is, ultimately, that H&P don't use the terms subjunct, disjunct, and conjunct, so those terms can't easily be compared with the ones that BillJ uses.

One can debate the extent to which learning these fine-grained syntactic distinctions will improve the quality of one's writing, if your interest is purely in writing rather than linguistics.

Reminder: every minute you spend debating whether Huddleston & Pullum's analyses are preferable to others is a minute you could spend watching old episodes of "The Red Green Show." It's a classic show, it's free on YouTube, and you don't have to get into any long arguments about patterns of complementation or fused-head constructions.

  • The question is valid on ELU, which is aimed at linguists / enquirers at an advanced level. The advice in the last two paragraphs here would be sound elsewhere. // It is unfortunate and confusing that some people give pet treatments / terminologies as if they're indisputable, not even attributing to the relevant school, especially when some terms are used with stipulative definitions (conflicting with other terminologies). Jul 23 at 13:23
  • @EdwinAshworth Indeed. But the asker said that they wanted to improve their writing, not to become a linguist.
    – alphabet
    Jul 23 at 13:25
  • But answers are aimed at a wider audience. Frame challenges are quite in order. Jul 23 at 13:36

Your grammatical categories are perhaps not correct in the last element of the list you mention. I am not aware of any one speaking of adjuncts in the domain of English grammar as a category on the level of subject, objects, verb and complement. However, the grammar I have been following proposes the following categories as descriptive of what can be found in clause structure: SUBJECT, VERB, COMPLEMENT, and ADVERBIAL.

(CoGEL § 2.13) The form-function distinction is particularly important in the case of clause structure, […]. To describe the constituency of clauses, we need to distinguish the following elements of clause structure: SUBJECT (S), VERB (V), OBJECT (0), COMPLEMENT (C), and ADVERBIAL (A).

Now, the category named "ADVERBIAL" is a category further divided into 4 essential categories : ADJUNCTS, DISJUNCTS, SUBJUNCTS , and CONJUNCTS. The following diagram shows the subcategories; annotations in pencil provide further information to be found in chapter 8 of CoGEL, The semantics and grammar of adverbials; I didn't erase them because I think they are faithful duplications of indications found in chapter 8, or perhaps elsewhere in the book (nevertheless, they are to be acknowledged with a critical eye on the count of their being annotations I made myself).

enter image description here

My advice to you is first to begin with a serious grammar (for example CoGEL), and then from there go on with your investigations so as to determine the terminology that suits you best; I think, however, that the terminology in CoGEL is widely accepted. Secondly, if you seek confortable identification, stick to a good grammar and absorb thouroughly its content while keeping an eye open for the alternative viewpoint. (Finally, I must say that if you ever achieve this enviable goal of confortable identification, you will have to be something of a linguist.)

  • Thanks for this. Would you say that I should just read one complete resource and follow its definitions, then? I have a book called 'Oxford Modern English Grammar', which I have been waiting to dive into.
    – MJ Ada
    Feb 27, 2022 at 15:17
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    @MJAda Yes, more or less, although you don't have to know whatever source you choose thouroughly before deciding to change for another one. You shouldn't look for information somewhere else as long as almost all of what you read makes sense to you. If you happen to start thinking differently, then with your newly gained overall view you can get to another book and evaluate better its alternative approach. It seems difficult, in my opinion, to start studying a new subject by continuously checking several references. This is never done in schools; they ask you to use only one textbook.
    – LPH
    Feb 27, 2022 at 16:48
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    @LPH Anything that makes a modifier sounds like an adverb or gives people the idea that it has an adverby kind of function is actively damaging to people's understanding of grammar! The term adjunct is not new. Best part of 100 years old! See here for why adverbial is a naff term! Feb 28, 2022 at 12:39
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    @LPH "There is an even worse case of apparent mingling of ideas in the fact that the only syntactic function correspponding to the part of speech "verb" is again named "verb" That's a very good point, but actually, the term you'll find in modern grammars such as the Aarts that I linked to or CaGEL or ASIEG, for that function is Predicator. See 2.2 in English Syntax & Argumentation that I linked to in comments above :-) Great minds, as they say. Feb 28, 2022 at 14:58
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I have to agree fully with that innovation.
    – LPH
    Feb 28, 2022 at 15:04

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