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I'm pretty sure adverbials can modify a verb, predicate or entire sentence.

1) Is it therefore up to the reader to decide what an adverbial modifies within a sentence?

Here is an example:

"I borrowed a phone to call my parents in London, who then cancelled my credit card, because I was leaving the next day."

2) Does the adverbial 'because I was leaving the next day' modify the closest verb 'cancelled' or 'borrowed'?

(In other words, did my parents cancell my credit because I was leaving the next day,

or did I borrow a phone to call my parents in London because I was leavng the next day?)

Thanks for your time.
Comments  
Usually, we are told that the modifying phrase, be it adjective or adverb, applies to the noun or verb phrase it is closest to in the sentence. It's pretty obvious how this could create confusion in readers and ESL's.

Did I borrow the phone to call because I was leaving the next day, or, did my parents cancel the credit card because I was leaving? Either is possible, and, the entire meaning of the sentence depends upon which interpretation the reader sees.

The comma following credit card might cause us to see the who in "who then cancelled my card,"
as simply a passing relative pronoun, unrelated to the fact of leaving. On the other hand, removal of that comma would lend strength to the alternative interpretation.

We have a vague association between subject and predicate(s). The sentence does not meet standards for business writing, although it is all right for general use. Think of it as one of the jokes the English language plays on us and give yourself credit for noticing.
English 1b3I'm pretty sure adverbials can modify a verb, predicate or entire sentence.

1) Is it therefore up to the reader to decide what an adverbial modifies within a sentence?
Yes, as always. The reader (or the listener) is the only one who can decide. The decision is based, of course, on the reader's common sense and his knowledge of the real world.
English 1b32) Does the adverbial 'because I was leaving the next day' modify the closest verb 'cancelled' or 'borrowed'?
It modifies whatever the reader's common sense leads him to believe it modifies. If the modifiers do not occur close to what they modify, this makes it more difficult for the reader to decide, and in that case maybe the sentence should be rewritten to make it more clear.

CJ
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"I borrowed a phone to call my parents in London, who then cancelled my credit card, because I was leaving the next day."

2) Does the adverbial 'because I was leaving the next day'
To me, this sentence has flaws. The author tried to convey mixed messages in a single structure. Aside from the linguistic aspects, I am curious on the nature of this sentence.

Is this an adverbial structure? If I am correct, adverbial refers to an adverb or a phrase, which is not a complete sentence. This, 'because I was leaving the next day' appeared to be not the case. "Becasue" suggest reasons which infer certain subordinate clausse elements.

Is it correct to call the above sentence adverbial? I'd say not.

[because I have to work]. In this example, isn't the second part a subordinate clause to the main clause? Or an adverbial structure modifying the main sentence "i can't go to the party"?

I'd appreciate an analytical from the experts.
Anonymous [because I have to work]. In this example, isn't the second part a subordinate clause to the main clause? Or an adverbial structure modifying the main sentence "i can't go to the party"?
There is no reason that a clause cannot be both subordinate and adverbial. "subordinate" just means it's not the main clause. "adverbial" just means that it answers a question like "Where?", "When?", "Why?", "How?", etc. A because-clause does both. The same is true of when-clauses, until-clauses, so-that-clauses, and many others. They are subordinate adverbial clauses.

CJ
Thank you CJ. Just the terms threw me for a loop.

By your explanation, then, dependent (or subordinate) clause, can have various aliases depending on the person reading the sentence. My curioisty becomes, how do readers with less than decent English knowledge know when and where to call a clause an adverbial, or a subordinate lcause?.

Do I make sense?
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Anonymous how do readers ... know when and where to call a clause an adverbial, or a subordinate clause?
It depends how specific you want to be. Calling a construction a subordinate clause is giving it a rather general name. Calling it an adverbial clause presumes that it is subordinate and goes further, characterizing it as something more specific, distinguishing it from a (subordinate) noun clause, for example. So "subordinate" is sufficient for a basic analysis of a clause, but "adverbial" is needed if a more detailed analysis is desired which shows the function of the clause within the entire multi-clause sentence.

CJ
Isn't a subordinating conjunction only preceded by a commas in cases of extreme contrast? I don't see any here, so that means that the "who then cancelled" clause is elliptical, taking both commas in the set, causing the "because" clause to modifiy the "I borrowed" clause. But I suppose this is open to other interpretations.
It modifies whatever the reader's common sense leads him to believe it modifies. If the modifiers do not occur close to what they modify, this makes it more difficult for the reader to decide, and in that case maybe the sentence should be rewritten to make it more clear.

Well said.
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