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  • Writer's pictureMary Hargreaves

Adjuncts: the basics

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

A clause can be made up of five building blocks: subjects, verbs, objects, complements and adjuncts. Here we’re going to look at adjuncts, the fifth building block with a special characteristic. An adjunct can be removed from any clause and the words remaining will still make sense as a standalone clause themselves.

Confused? You don’t need to be – once you see some examples it’ll all make sense. Essentially, an adjunct adds extra, non-essential (grammatically speaking) information to the information already included in a clause: adjunct = additional info.

Example: She saw the candle on the table.

Components: She (subject) saw (verb to see) the candle (object) on the table (adjunct).

Here, ‘on the table’ functions as our adjunct. Now, if you’re familiar with complements, you might be wondering what the difference is between the two. And you’d be right to – they seem remarkably similar. But there is one crucial difference. Take a look at these two examples:

Example: She saw the candle on the table.

Example: She put the candle on the table.

Which of these examples includes a complement, and which includes an adjunct? It’s easy to figure it out if we remember that the adjunct is supplementary – it isn’t necessary for the clause to make sense and can be removed without leaving an incomplete clause behind.

If we remove ’on the table’ from our first example, we are left with ‘She saw the candle’. Fine. No problems there. But if we remove ’on the table’ from the second example, we are left with ‘She put the candle’. Not fine. Where did she put it?

Let’s break down a couple more examples.

Example: She wanted an ice cream at the park.

Components: She (subject) wanted (verb to want) an ice cream (object) at the park (adjunct).

Example without adjunct: She wanted an ice cream.

Example: Last week, I saw Susan.

Components: Last week (adjunct), I (subject) saw (verb to see) Susan (object).

Example without adjunct: I saw Susan.

Example: I’ll be there once I’ve brushed my teeth.

Components: I (subject)‘ll be (verb to be) there (object) once I’ve brushed my teeth (adjunct).

Example without adjunct: I’ll be there.

Adjuncts are part of the basic building blocks of clauses, phrases and sentences. You might not have been taught them in school (or perhaps, like me, you weren’t really listening) but you can see that there’s really nothing complicated about them at all. Infinitive verbs can also function as adjuncts, so you might find it useful to read about them to expand on what you’ve learned here.

Have a look through my subjects, verbs and objects post, and then read through my article about complements, and you’ll have the foundations sussed.

And if really, learning all of this just isn’t for you – well, that’s what I’m here for. I’m a fiction editor with over a decade of experience, so if you’ve written a story that you need polishing, get in touch or send me an email:

Want further reading? Here are a couple of books to get you going on your grammar journey.

[The links provided below are affiliate links].

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