Hello Teachers

I got a question from an English learner who is a mother of a middle school student in Japan.
What she asked is if the sentence "My uncle invited us to dinner next Sunday" she found in her daughter's English textbook is grammatically correct. According to her, the sentence was used in the phone dialogue given below.
Taro:Hello, this is Taro.
Denis:Oh, hi, Taro. What's up ?
Taro:My uncle invited us to dinner next Sunday. Can you come?
Denis:Wow, great !
Taro:Let's talk about it tomorrow. OK ?
Denis:OK. Thank you for calling.

I thought that "next Sunday" in the sentence would be taken as a modifier of "invited" rather than a modifier of "dinner" if we normally parse it, and so I answered the sentence in question is not correct and it should be changed into "My uncle invited us to next Sunday's dinner". But I 'm not so certain. Could you give your opinion about this?

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The original is fine and natural and the expected form, Paco. 'Next Sunday's dinner' sounds unusual unless it is some sort of pre-planned feast which is already known to the listener.
Hello Mister Micawber

Thank you for the quick answer. Frankly I am a bit surprised and confused. I know it's a sentence in a dialogue and it may be a phrase very colloquial. But if you try to parse it, how could you parse it? "Dinner" is not a verb but a noun, so "next Sunday" should be a post-modifying adjectival phrase. Right? I have never learned such sort of usage about "next Sunday". Can we generalize this usage? If one can use such kind of usage for all time indicating adverbial phrases, it will get us confused. Let me take a sentence "He invited me to dinner this Thursday", for example, how can we know which word "this Thursday" in the sentence modifies?

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Paco - I agree with Mr. M. that the sentence sounds fine and natural, but I'm afraid my parsing skills are non-existent. Does it help any if you think of it as "he invited us [to come] to dinner next Sunday", with the [to come] omitted but understood?
Hello Khoff

Thank you for your parsing the sentence. If I can suppose the sentence is formed by an ellipsis of "to come", it seems reasonable to me. You and MM say the original sentence sounds fine to your ears. However, Google gives no hits to "(They) invited us/me/you to dinner next Sunday". So I am wondering if this sentence is so frequently used in everyday life as Japanese kids have to learn it in school. I think a sentence like "He invited us to have dinner (with his family) next Sunday" is better fit to kids' English textbooks in that they could understand it grammatically.

Hello guys

I have been talking on this issue with Japanese guys, and one of them proposed a sentence like below:
"John gave me two tickets for the ball game next week."
Does this sound natural to you?

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The ball game sentence sounds common and natural too, Paco, while your latest formation, 'He invited us to have dinner (with his family) next Sunday', is also fine, only sounding a tad more formal.

With regard to modification:

'This Thursday, he invited me to dinner' -- if it is Saturday, then the time phrase is obviously adverbial, modifying the verb; if it is Tuesday, I suppose it is adjectival, but it is unusually placed.

'He invited me to dinner this Thursday' -- can be read either way of course, and relies completely on context and day of utterance to determine the correct referent for 'this Thursday'.

Much of our discussions (not just on this thread) tend to forget how much of communication in a language is based on context and nonverbal factors.

I would also warn you (though I doubt you need the warning) of falling into the trap of adjusting 'textbooks Emotion: football that they could understand it grammatically'. Grammar is all to prevalent in ESL/EFL texts as it is; it is the authentic language that students need to be increasingly confronted with. They don'thave to understand everything grammatically; there should be a good mix of grammar and faith.

But I am sure you are aware of that.
Hello Mr Micawber

Thank you for the kind advice. I understand grammar is merely generalized rules extracted from and described about a language spoken by people and the people wouldn't care anything about grammar when they are speaking. So there must be a lot of collocations that cannot be explained grammatically. So it should be wrong to seek a grammatical explanation for every collocation. I know it. But still I believe grammar is the main tool for non-natives to learn a second language as long as they live in the atmosphere where the target language is not spoken.

Anyway, as for the sentenced we talked about in this thread, I understand it is a special collocation that we have not try to explain it grammatically. Thank you for sparing me your precious time.


I found [url="http://internationaleflcafe.com/rules-of-american-english-grammar-adverb-as-a-noun-modifier.htm "] a site[/url] that is saying some time/place adverbs can post-modify nouns in American English. This usage of adverbs is a quite new knowledge to me, and I could find neither grammar books nor other online sites that explain this kind of adverb usage. So could you help me to know a bit more about it?

I am wondering if there is any restriction on registers where we can use this construct. For example, is it OK if we use this construct in formal documents like academic papers? And I'd like to know if we could use rather complex adverbials in this way. For example, could we say as follows?

"The weather the day after tomorrow will be fine"
"Japan the years from 2002 to 2004 lacked strong political leaders".
"He said that we could meet in the meeting April 10 next year".
"The fort 100 km north of the town was captured by the enemy"

Thank you in advance.

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