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Definition:

A word, phrase, or clause that functions as an adjective or adverb to limit or qualify the meaning of another word or word group (called the head).

Modifiers in English include adjectives, adverbs, demonstratives, possessive determiners, prepositional phrases, degree modifiers, and intensifiers. See Examples and Observations, below.

Modifiers that appear before the head are called premodifiers. Modifiers that appear after the head are called postmodifiers.

See also:

Exercises:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "measure"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
    (Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca, 1942)


  • "As the leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca, I am an influential and respected man."
    (Sydney Greenstreet as Senor Ferrari in Casablanca


  • "You can tell me now. I'm reasonably sober."
    (Rick in Casablanca)


  • Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
    Rick: I'm a drunkard.
    Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.
    (Casablanca)


  • "I'm an excellent housekeeper. Every time I get a divorce, I keep the house."
    (Zsa Zsa Gabor)


  • "I met a girl who sang the blues
    and I asked her for some happy news,
    but she just smiled and turned away.
    And the three men I admire most,
    The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost,
    They caught the last train to the coast
    The day the music died."
    (Don McLean, "American Pie")


  • "Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else's life forever."
    (Margaret Cho)


  • Types of Qualifying Modifiers
    "We may use different types of conceptual units in qualifying a thing or an instance of a thing and, accordingly, use different types of modifiers in English. The sentences under (4) illustrate the most common usages of qualifying modifiers in English. In all of the examples, the head noun detective is qualified in different ways. The modifiers are printed in italics.
    (4a) Hercule Poirot is a brilliant detective.
    (4b) Agatha Christie's detective Poirot is a legend all over the world.
    (4c) The detective with the waxed moustache solves the most baffling cases.
    (4d) Hercule Poirot is the famous detective created by the English mystery writer Agatha Christie.
    (4e) Poirot is a detective who has come to England as a war refugee.
    "In sentence (4a), the adjective brilliant modifies the predicate noun detective. . . .

    "In sentence (4b), the head noun detective is modified by the complex noun phrase Agatha Christie's, where the genitive morpheme 's expresses the relation of possession.

    "In sentence (4c), the noun a detective is modified by the prepositional phrase with the waxed moustache. . . .

    "In sentence (4d), two nonrestrictive modifiers are added to qualify the definite referent detective: the adjective famous and the participial phrase created by the English mystery-writer Agatha Christie. . . .

    "In sentence (4e), a detective is modified by a relative clause."
    (Günter Radden and René Dirven, Cognitive English Grammar. John Benjamins, 2007)
Pronunciation: MOD-i-FI-er
Also Known As: adjunct
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