Comment Adjuncts

Comment Adjuncts “express the speaker’s attitude either to the proposition as a whole or to the particular speech function” (H & M, p.129).

1) Propositional (ideational) type – occur only with declarative clauses and, as with mood Adjuncts, may appear in the thematic, neutral or afterthought positions. Propositional type comment Adjuncts are located “according to their significance for the textual organisation of the clause…[and] are strongly associated with the boundary between information units” (H & M, p.129). The difference between these and circumstances of manner can often be difficult for learners (compare: wisely, he didn’t act with he didn’t act wisely).

2) Speech functional (interpersonal) type – may occur with either declarative clauses, which express the speaker’s angle (Frankly, I was surprised.), or with interrogative, which express the listener’s angle (Frankly, were you surprised?). They are more likely to be restricted to initial or final position. This type also falls into two sub-types: qualified, which can be followed by speaking as in generally speaking, and unqualified, which cannot be followed by speaking.

The comment Adjunct network and examples can be found here.

Mood Adjuncts

Mood Adjuncts are “closely associated with the meanings construed by the mood system: modality and temporality, and also intensity” (H & M, p.126). The neutral position for mood Adjuncts is next to the Finite, although they may also function as Theme (temporality and modality have a strong tendency for this) or as Afterthought:

  1. usually they don’t open before ten (thematic)
  2. they usually don’t open before ten (neutral)
  3. they don’t usually open before ten (neutral)
  4. they don’t open before ten usually (afterthought)

The difference between 2. and 3. is also systematic – try replacing usually with always to see the difference. Adjuncts of modality are closely related to the system of modality construed by the Finite operator. The important difference is, however, that whereas the system of modality through the Finite is subjective, where it is “the speaker’s own judgement on which the validity of the proposition is made to rest” (H & M, p.150), Adjuncts are construed as being objective and “represent different types of assessment of the proposition or proposal” (H & M, p.126). Thus we can compare It must be a pen (implicit-subjective) with It is certainly a pen (implicit-objective).

Adjuncts of temporality “relate either (i) to the time itself, which may be near or remote, past or future, relative to the speaker-now [for example, eventually/soon or once/just]; or (ii) to an expectation, positive or negative, with regard to the time at issue [for example, still/already or no longer/ not yet]” (H & M, p.127-8). In special cases where Adjuncts of modality and temporality are ‘negative’, the order of Subject and Finite is typically (in certain registers) reversed, such as Never before have fans been promised such a feast of speed (H & M, p.127).

Adjuncts of intensity fall into two classes: (i) degree, which may be total (totally, utterly), high (quite, almost) or low (scarcely, hardly) or (ii) counterexpectancy, which may be either exceeding (even, actually) or limiting (just, simply) (H & M, p.127-9). Adjuncts of intensity cannot be thematic.


An Adjunct “is an element that has not got the potential of being Subject; that is, it cannot be elevated to the interpersonal status of modal responsibility…typically realized by an adverbial group or a prepositional phrase” (H & M, p.123-4). For a prepositional phrase, consisting of a Predicator + Complement, it is often the case that one of the constituents, the Complement, has the potential of becoming a Subject and the preposition gets left behind. For example, in the clause someone’s already written on that paper, on that paper functions as Adjunct but it is also possible for the noun group that paper to function as Subject, in which case on is left behind:

that paper ‘s already been written on
Subject Finite Adjunct Predicator Adjunct
Mood Residue

There are three types of Adjunct which can be distinguished by metafunction. This affects their location in the clause:

  1. circumstantial Adjuncts, which are located in the Residue (experiential metafunction);
  2. modal Adjuncts, which may be in either Mood or Comment (interpersonal metafunction);
  3. conjunctive Adjunct, which are not located in the mood structure (textual metafunction).

For EFL, this metafunctional distinction between the types of Adjuncts is important and explains why the common EFL exchange Q: How often do you play tennis? – A: Usually sounds unnatural. The question how often is experiential in nature and thus would most naturally take a circumstantial Adjunct (once a week). The mood Adjunct usually, however, is interpersonal in nature and indicates part of the speaker’s attitude towards the activity. This explains why the exchange Q: Do you like tennis? – A: Sometimes, I guess could be judged as acceptable but is often not seen as such by EFL learners.


The Residue is those parts of the clause as exchange that are not contained within the Mood block and “consists of functional elements of three kinds: Predicator [one], Complement [one or two] and Adjunct [up to about seven]” (H & M, p.121). For example:

Sister Susie ‘s sewing shirts for soldiers
Subject Finite Predicator Complement Adjunct
Mood Residue