0

My family and I saw the following phrase:

The also relevant part is . . .

We all agreed that it was kind of an awkward sounding construction. But we disagreed on whether it was grammatically correct.

My brother argued that it was incorrect because "also" doesn't modify adjectives or nouns. I argued that it is correct because "also" does modify adjectives. We both used the example sentence "I am also hungry" to argue our point, with my brother saying "also" modifies "am", and with me arguing that it modifies "hungry."

Which of us is correct?

4
  • Thankfully adverbs don't have to modify single words only.
    – tchrist
    Apr 25, 2022 at 20:04
  • 1
    Pat's hungry, and I am also hungry. I am thirsty and I am also hungry. Context. Apr 25, 2022 at 21:28
  • It's wrong for 'the other part that is relevant' (*'The also tall boy'), and I can't see what else it is intended to mean. Sep 2, 2023 at 18:37
  • "The also tall boy" sounds like "the too small box". Also modifies the verb phrase, just like a floated quantifier ought to. We also stopped at Jack's, or Also, we stopped at Jack's. But your brother's wrong to base any argument on such a silly rule as "an X never modifies a Y". That's a definition, not a test. Oct 2, 2023 at 22:33

2 Answers 2

1

(1) In

  • I am also hungry

'also' is qualifying the whole clause 'I am hungry' rather than any particular word. Note that it really means 'I am hungry as well as being ...' here. In

  • I am hungry too

we may have the same intended meaning, but the default reading is now 'I am one of the hungry people too.'

'The also relevant part' is rather unusual, probably better avoided as unidiomatic, but means something along the lines of 'the other part that is relevant' (or possibly 'the part which is relevant as well as being one of the interesting ones'). But to call it an ungrammatical usage would be too draconian. Here are some examples of a parallel determiner phrase:

  • This species is similar to the also common Haematopota crassicornis, but differs from that species in the orange ... [Wikipedia]
  • 'The Reason Is Because': Redundant But Acceptable

  • If because can refer to a pronoun (it, or the also common this or that) ("this/that is because"), there is no logical reason ... [Merriam-Webster Usage Notes] [adjusted]

  • What is not mere convention is the also common convention of using all lowercase letters for database objects [Stack Overflow]

Though some prefer to parenthesise:

  • None of the (also common) leader powers that grant extra saves or save bonuses will work, because there is no save to begin with. [RPG Net Forums]

I'd say the hyphenation some use is a wrong attempt to disguise as a compound adjective.

0

In "He is also sad," for instance, "also" is modifying the verb "is." To see why, consider these sentences:

  1. He is still sad.
  2. He still appears sad.
  3. He is very sad.
  4. He appears very sad.

To oversimplify things a bit: when an adverb is modifying a verb, it needs to follow certain rules regarding its position in a sentence. These rules are different when the verb in question is an auxiliary verb, including to be when it gets used as a main verb as in (1). So, when you replace the auxiliary verb with an ordinary verb, as in (2), the position of the adverb still has to change: "He appears still sad" sounds quite bad.

But when an adverb is modifying an adjective, no such rule applies. So the position of "very" is the same in (4) as it is in (3). In fact, "He very appears sad" is completely incorrect because "very" generally cannot modify verbs directly.

So, back to our example: "He is also sad." If "also" is modifying "is," we would expect this sentence to be acceptable:

  1. He also appears sad.

On the other hand, if "also" is modifying "sad," we would expect this sentence to be acceptable:

  1. * He appears also sad.

I think most would agree that (6) is quite awkward, much like "He appears still sad." So we conclude that "also" is modifying the verb "is."

"Also" is occasionally used to modify adjectives, as in your example with "The also relevant point..." But this usage is quite rare; I would classify it as nonstandard.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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