Adverbial Nouns  

What is an adverbial noun?

Adverbial nouns are nouns or noun phrases that function grammatically as adverbs to modify verbs and certain adjectives.

Modifying verbs

Adverbial nouns are sometimes referred to as adverbial objectives. This is because they hold a position normally occupied by a verb’s direct object, yet they act as an adverb to modify the verb with an aspect of time, distance, weight, age, or monetary value.

Time

  • “I am leaving tomorrow.”
  • “We walked an hour out of town.”
  • “I’ll see you next year.”

Distance

  • “I run five miles every day.”
  • “I can barely see a foot in front of me in this fog.”

Weight

  • “They are displaying a block of cheese that weighs a ton!”
  • “I’m trying to lose a few pounds before the wedding.”

Age

  • “She is 35 years old.” (In this case, the adverbial noun phrase modifies the adjective old.)
  • “This wine is aged 25 years.”

Monetary value

  • “This car only costs $2,000.”
  • “That speeding ticket set me back 300 bucks.”

Complementing certain adjectives

Certain adjectives, such as worth and due, are able to take nouns or noun phrases as complements when they are in a predicative position. For example:
  • “This coat is only worth a dollar.”
  • “I think Mary is due an apology.”
Some sources also consider the word like to be an adjective that can take a noun/noun phrase complement, as in:
  • “He is very much like your brother.”
Other sources only consider it as a preposition in this capacity, which would make like your brother a prepositional phrase.
Likewise, worth and due are sometimes considered to be more like prepositions than adjectives when they function this way. However, there is not a clear agreement on the terminology that is most appropriate, because it is so unusual for nouns to be the complements of adjectives.
Finally, note that adverbial nouns are not the same as attributive nouns (also called noun adjuncts), which are used with another noun to form compound nouns.
Quiz

1. Which of the following are not modified or complemented by adverbial nouns?





2. Which of the following is not one of the ways verbs are modified by adverbial nouns?





3. Identify the adverbial noun in the following sentence:
“I can’t wait to start school this September in Canada.”





4. Identify the adverbial noun in the following sentence:
“She’s going to be 20 next July.”





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