Question about possessive words

I have a question about possessive words.

Consider the following examples:

  1. Sarah has a hat.
  2. This is Sarah’s hat.
  3. This is her hat. (“her” referring to Sarah)
  4. This is hers. (“hers” referring to the hat being Sarah’s hat)

My question is how to think about stuff like “Sarah’s” in example
2 and “her” in example 3. Here are my numbered comments on the above

  1. “Sarah” is clearly a noun in the first example.
  2. “Sarah’s” is the possessive form of “Sarah.” So by adding
    the apostrophe + s to “Sarah”, have we changed the part of speech of
    the word “Sarah”? Is “Sarah’s” a modifier now? Or is it kind
    of like a verbal, where Sarah is derived from a noun and can still be
    thought of as being a noun, but can take on roles other than strictly
    noun roles? (A noun-al?) I think talking about the possessive form of a
    noun as still basically being a noun is standard.
  3. “her” seems to be modifying “hat.” But if “Sarah’s” is
    a “noun”, then “her” seems like a pronoun. In school, I learned
    words like “her” in example 3 as being “possessive adjectives”,
    and they are typically treated as adjectives in contexts like example 3.
    But I found a page saying possessive adjectives are technically pronouns
    cuz they replace a noun, and that made some sense to me.
    It seems like if a word is replacing another word that we’re calling a
    noun, then the word being used as the replacement is a pronoun. And if a
    word is replacing another word that we’re calling an adjective, then
    the word being used as a replacement is a pro-adjective or something.
    And maybe nouns can do the adjective job sometimes, and maybe so can
    pronouns, but saying that nouns can do adjective jobs sometimes seems
    different than saying a particular word is actually just an adjective.
    So I am wondering if there is a contradiction between viewing
    “Sarah’s” as a noun in example 2 and “her” as an adjective in
    example 3 based on the argument that “her” is a pronoun, not an

  4. I think “hers” stands for something like “her hat.” So maybe
    it’s really like a pro-noun-phrase. I’m okay with calling it a
    pronoun though. It is in fact standing for a noun, I think. It just
    might be standing for other stuff too.

BTW it’s possible that I’m paying too much attention to categories
and labels and that there is a better way to think about all this stuff.
That would not surprise me in the least. But if that’s the case then
there is a better way to understand this topic that I don’t quite
understand yet, so it still seems worth asking the question!

Adjective placement

These are some thoughts on different cases involving the placement of
adjectives before and after nouns. My focus is on talking about
placement of adjective within the subject part of the sentence. Lots of
adjectives can modify subjects from the predicate if they’re connected
by a linking verb, but that’s beyond the scope of what I am talking
about here.

Case 1: Adjective only before noun

The default is that adjectives must come before nouns if they are to
modify that noun from within the subject part of the sentence.

The red ball is pretty. (“red” modifies “ball”, comes before
The cheesy pizza was hot. (“cheesy” modifies “pizza”, comes
before “pizza.”)

Note: You can rewrite the sentences above to put the adjective in a
clause that comes after the noun, but it needs to be an explicit
relative clause, meaning that the adjective can never modify the noun
directly when it comes after the noun but is still in the subject part
of the sentence.
Example: The ball that is red is pretty. (“red” is modifying
“that”, not “ball” directly; only “that is red” as a whole
modifies “ball”.)
NOT: The ball red is pretty.

Case 2: Adjective only after noun

There are cases when adjectives can only come after the nouns they
modify. These cases include when an adjective modifies a pronoun, and in
certain expressions related to titles, food and various other examples.

When an adjective modifies a pronoun

Example: Everyone present voted for the bill.
NOT: Present everyone voted for the bill.

Note: You can think of the adjective here as being part of an
implied relative clause.
Example: Everyone present voted for the bill. (You can read this as:
“Everyone [who was] present voted for the bill.”)

Certain things related to titles, law, military, feudal stuff,

names of food and particular families
attorney general
heir apparent
the Brothers Grimm
professor emeritus
Beef Wellington
eggs Benedict

Case 3: Adjective placement optional

There are cases when the adjective can appear either before or after the
noun being modified. If the adjective appears before, it’s a standard
modifier. If it appears after, my theory is that it is part of an
omitted relative clause.

Before the noun: The present Senators voted on the bill.
After the noun: The Senators present voted on the bill. (You can read
this as “The Senators [who were] present voted on the bill.”)

Phrasal Verbs, Modifiers, Accepting Arbitrary Conventions

I had a question about the sentence “I do need to chill out.”

Specifically, I was wondering if “to chill out” was an infinitive
verb, or maybe “out” was a modifier.

I found “chill out” described as a “phrasal verb” in a
dictionary and decided that that settled the matter as to the question
of whether “out” was a modifier, the answer being “no.”

Elliot commented off-list:

it interprets fine as non-phrasal
calling it phrasal is like looking up a name for something and being
like “someone said it’s named this, therefore mystery solved”
ur just accepting it’s arbitrary convention

I agree. I am taking the approach of looking up a name for something and
thinking I understand it a lot.

Anyways, with regards to the comment “it interprets fine as
non-phrasal”, here are some questions/research/thoughts on that. I
also discuss “hang out” cuz that seemed pretty similar. Note that
these are just my thoughts and I’m not trying to present myself as
authoritative. I used sections cuz stuff was getting unwieldly and
winding up in the wrong section so I wanted to impose some structure.

Dictionary Definitions

What’s the relationship of “out” to the verbs “to hang” and
“to chill” in the expressions “to hang out” and “to chill

Let’s start out with dictionary definitions:

For “hang”, Webster’s 3rd International dictionary offers the
following definition (among many others):

2.: to spend time idly especially with a particular person or group of
people : hang out — usually used with with

Webster’s 3rd International also has this definition for “hang”:

8.:idle, loiter

found the boys hanging around poolrooms

making the acquaintance of quiet gentlemen hanging about the fringes
of tourist parties — Louis Bromfield

For chill/chill out, there are a couple of different meanings. They are
both somewhat connected to the idea of relaxing but they’re pretty

One meaning of “chill out”, which is the one in the initial sentence
I started out with, is something like: you’re uptight/upset and you
need stop being upset. It’s very close in meaning to “calm down”,
as in “you need to calm down.”

Webster’s 3rd International mentions that “to chill out” as a verb
is often used in the imperative, which I think is connected to this
calming down sense.

Another meaning of “chill out” is basically synonymous with “hang

American Heritage 4th edition gives the following relevant definitions
for “chill”:


a. To calm down or relax. Often used with out.

b. To pass time idly; loiter. Often used with out.

c. To keep company; see socially. Often used with out.

“Out” is an adverb in terms of parts of speech.

Justin’s Analysis of “Out” As a Modifier

So is “out” serving as a modifier in “chill out” and “hang

I did some thinking.

Compare the beginning of two sentences:

I was hanging with

I was hanging out with

After “I was hanging with”, I think I would likely expect the
speaker to name some person they were spending time with. But, the
sentence could still go a variety of different directions. (I imagined
something dramatic like “I was hanging with the dagger between my
teeth as I stared down into the open space below the cliff I was
dangling from.”)

With “I was hanging out with”, I’m more certain when I reach the
“with” about the general direction the sentence is going in because
of the “out.” So, the “out” is conveying some information when
coupled with the “hanging”. It’s reducing some ambiguity.

So, I tentatively think “out” is a modifier for “hang out.” I
think maybe I was confused cuz the nature of the ambiguity being
reduced/question being answered by “out” seems less clear than the
ambiguity reduction/question being answered by, say, “red” in “the
red ball.”

I tried to come up with a similar example to illustrate ambiguity
reduction for the “calm down” meaning of “chill out” but I
struggled, so I’ll just omit that.

Concluding Thoughts

Are there any legit “phrasal verbs”? Is it a useful concept?

I looked up lists of phrasal verb examples and it looked like the
examples involved a bunch of adverbs and prepositions being appended to
verbs e.g.

So that made me wonder if perhaps phrasal verbs are a misconceived idea,
at least as far as the adverbs are concerned. 🤔

Let’s assume “chill out” isn’t a phrasal verb. Let’s try
analyzing the following sentence:

“I do need to chill out.”

Subject: I
Auxiliary Verb: do
Verb: need
Object: the expression “to chill out”

Is “to chill” an infinitive meaning “to calm down”, serving as a
direct object, and being modified by “out”? Maybe.