Prepositional phrases — where they end

 

Q:

I have a question concerning the following example:

By coincidence, the Finnish results were released at the same time that an American study found the cancer-fighting potential of a chemical in broccoli known as…

With the prepositional phrase beginning with at, where does the phrase end? Is it "time" or is it "potential"? Is "that" beginning a subordinate adverb clause which would therefore modify the word "time", or am I mistaken?

Posted 28 February 2003

A:

The first question is: "With the prepositional phrase beginning with at where does the phrase end? Is it 'time' or is it 'potential'?"

A prepositional phrase has to have a noun or pronoun as object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase is "at the same time," and thus ends with the noun time.

The next question is: "Is 'that' beginning a subordinate adverb clause which would therefore modify the word 'time', or am I mistaken?"

You are almost right. The clause is not an adverb clause per se, it is a relative clause. But it is not an adjective clause. You are correct, however, as to type: it is an adverbial relative clause. Here is why:

If the clause that an American study found the cancer-fighting potential of a chemical in broccoli known as. . . were indeed an adjective clause (which it is not), the word that would have to stand for either the subject or the object of the clause.

That would stand for the subject, as in this example from another sentence:

at the same time that seemed convenient (subject)

or that would stand for the object as in the example from this sentence:

at the same time that they specified (direct object)

But the clause you presented already has a subject—"study"—and an object—"potential"—so there's no adjective clause role for the word that.

Furthermore, the example sentence could be paraphrased as

By coincidence, the Finnish results were released at the same time as an American study found the cancer- fighting potential of a chemical in broccoli known as..

With the use of as instead of that, it becomes clear that the relative clause with that is not an adjective clause but an adverbial relative clause. Other similar examples include*:

At the same time as we started using the concept of cyberfeminism,it also began to appear in other parts of the world.

These are updated at the same time as the daily graphs above are added

Can I get my other vaccines at the same time as I get the flu vaccine?

Marilyn Martin

_________

*These examples are taken from a Google search.

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