Why is "why" considered an adverb?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by ELA 11 12, Nov 25, 2008.

  1. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2008

    Why aren't those three little girls playing now?

    are playing = verb (23 helping verbs/action verb)
    girls = subject (Who or what are playing?)
    now = adverb (Tells when about the verb.)
    those = adjective (Which one?)
    three = adjective (How many?)
    little = adjective (What kind?)
    n't = adverb (How often?)
    Why = I don't know how to explain this to the students and they are demanding an answer...:dizzy:

    What is why?

    Thanks in advance. :thumb:
     
  2.  
  3. Writer's Block

    Writer's Block Companion

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2008
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2008

    When it is used like that in your example, it is an adverb modifying the verb. It answers for what, for what reason, cause, or purpose

    Does that help?
     
  4. catsos2

    catsos2 Companion

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2008
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2008

    I believe that it is because Why modifies Are.

    For instance the sentence, "Aren't the girls playing?" Has a completely different meaning than, "Why aren't the girls playing?" because that WHY modifies the verb ARE.

    I could be wrong, but this is my best guess.
     
  5. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2008
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 25, 2008

    Yes, it modifies 'are playing', just like 'therefore', 'so', or 'because' could.
     
  6. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,888
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 26, 2008

    why   /ʰwaɪ, waɪ/ adverb, conjunction, noun, plural whys, interjection
    –adverb 1. for what? for what reason, cause, or purpose?: Why did you behave so badly?
    –conjunction 2. for what cause or reason: I don't know why he is leaving.
    3. for which; on account of which (usually after reason to introduce a relative clause): the reason why he refused to go.
    4. the reason for which: That is why he returned.
    –noun 5. a question concerning the cause or reason for which something is done, achieved, etc.: a child's unending hows and whys.
    6. the cause or reason: the whys and wherefores of a troublesome situation.
    –interjection 7. (used as an expression of surprise, hesitation, etc., or sometimes a mere expletive): Why, it's all gone!
     
  7. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 26, 2008

    Thanks for your replies so far! I feel that Writer's Block, catsos2, Hoot Owl, and I are doing what my students will not: accept "why" for what it is based on its definition.

    The grammar instruction process I use works like mathematical logic proofs, but in the case of "why" I can't generate a proof.

    My initial post gives examples of how we, the students and I, prove the relationship of words in a sentence. I do diagram sentences, so those that need it get a visual as well.

    Don't stop with your help now, keep it coming!
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Nov 26, 2008

    I'll give you the short version of the linguistic answer: why occupies the same slots in a sentence that how does, and how is fairly indisputably an adverb.
     
  9. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    0

    Nov 26, 2008

    Thanks, TeacherGroupie. I would appreciate a PM, link, or even title of the reference book for the long answer.

    Thanks!
     
  10. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,170

    Nov 26, 2008

    My answer above is the one that linguists use in analyzing languages: the word class (=part of speech) of a word, ultimately, is whatever it can act as. Etymologically, residual is an adjective, but in the phrase the residuals it's clearly being used as a noun. When it comes to parts of speech, classifying by use is much more reliable than classifying by definition. (Beauty, for example, isn't really a person or a place or a thing in the usual sense; but the word beauty acts like a noun, so it makes sense to classify it as a noun.)

    As to adverbs, here's a link to a long and very thorough discussion from one of the UK's top schools of linguistics: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/internet-grammar/adverbs/adverbs.htm. Oddly, one of my other favorite sites, http://www.usingenglish.com, is no help at all.

    The American Heritage Dictionary, cited at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/why, lists why in the use you cite as an adverb, and it's a good guess that most other dictionaries - and grammars of English - do likewise. I'm afraid I can't unearth mine at the moment.
     
  11. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Messages:
    3,319
    Likes Received:
    12

    Nov 27, 2008

    Just remember that anything in a sentence that answers the question how, when, where, why, or to what extent or degree is some kind of adverb. Nothing else can answer these questions; they are ADVERB questions.

    Remember, too, that prepositional phrases are often adverbs, as are other constructions.

    I tell my students to just remember the adverb and adjective questions and they'll always be able to find an adverb or adjective in any sentence.

    (Adjective questions are which, what kind of, and how many/much.)

    The questions are not interchangeable; only adverbs can answer adverb questions, and only adjectives can answer adjective questions.

    When a sentence contains the word "how" or "why," that it's an adverb is indisputable because of the nature of the definition!
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 326 (members: 2, guests: 295, robots: 29)
test