Such students may be perfectly at home with the language of an ode or a classical play, [...] [Source]

In a formal written language, isn't it grammatically incorrect to use, instead of an adjective, the adverb "perfectly" in this sentence?

In other words, based on a structure similar to the one used in that book which explains the situation of learners of English, is it correct to write: "I may be perfectly at the university with research tools, yet I find myself unable to effectively use them in real life situations" or "I am at the university with research tools perfectly, ..."

Is it possible to generalize and write: "I was closely to the cafeteria when I received the notification of your email."?

Keywords: "to be" + adverb - [adjective(s) || adverb || {"other verb" + ing}]

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    Perfectly modifies at home. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 18:50
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    I'm perfectly happy with your example. Why do you think there might be a problem with "being perfectly X"? Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 19:06
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    To me, at home and happy both look like adjectives describing a person's current state. But as a native speaker I don't have to concern myself with exactly what "adjective" means - I just know I don't see any difference between I feel perfectly happy here and I feel perfectly at home here. If you're working to a set of definitions within which at home is not adjectival, perhaps you need to clarify that. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 20:04
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    @SvenYargs, In fact, it asked only whether "I'm perfectly at home..." makes sense, as I'm familiar with sentences where adjectives are used after "to be"... "I'm perfectly at the university with the research tools", from my perspective, as non-native speaker as I depend mainly on grammar references, is not grammatically correct, is it? And thus, according to me, doesn't make sense, does it? I actually didn't perceive "at home with", which implies in its deducible meaning two adjectives, as an idiom. Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 18:50
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    "At home" in this context means "familiar, well-informed", but "to the cafeteria" only has the literal meaning, hence the difference in the use of the adverb.
    – Joachim
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


The verb that perfectly is modifying here is actually a phrasal one: to be at home with. That means the author's wording is perfectly grammatical; whether or not one can split a phrasal verb is a matter of style, not grammar.

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    Some particle multi-word verbs are optionally separable (for non-pronoun NPs) ('They brought Ø the substitute Ø'; Ø a slot for 'on'), some are obligatorily separable ('You really had Jim on'), and some inseparable ('We came by a great deli in Macclesfield'). Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 19:24
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    @EdwinAshworth But "may be at home with" isn't a phrasal verb. It is just "may be" plus an idiomatic adjectival PP compliment modified by the adverb.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 19:33
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    @Phil Sweet That's how I'd analyse it, but verbo-nominal multi word verbs are recognised. Claridge (In 'Multi-word Verbs in Early Modern English ...'), who I see as a leading authority here, gives an overview of terminology, and lists the subset of verbo-nominal multi-word verbs such as 'put an end to' (though 'an ent to' is itself a fixed expression). // This example clearly isn't a particle MWV, and I was addressing 'whether or not one can split a phrasal verb is a matter of style, not grammar' which doubtless refers to all classes of MWVs. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 23:37
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    @EdwinAshworth 'Verbo-nominal multi-word verbs'? Yes, well ...! I hope you're not suggesting that some prepositional VPs are headed by 'multi-word verbs'.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 9:15
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    I'm stating that there is divided opinion on the cohesiveness of some verbo-nominal constructions (often with a transitivising particle) such as 'take cover'; 'make fun of'. Analysis can depend on which tests you choose to apply. Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 14:35

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