I am trying to explain adverb and adjective prepositional phrases to my students. Sentences like the following baffle me: "During the night, the owls in the woods shrieked loudly for their mates." The answer in the book is that "in the woods" is adjectival. However, it's a stretch to say it answers the adjective question, "which ones?" It is better suited to the adverb question, "where?" (As my students so helpfully pointed out.) Since adverb prepositions may be placed anywhere in a sentence, is it too simplistic to tell them that because it immediately follows a noun it is adjectival? How do I explain these kinds of sentences to help them understand the difference? (Especially when I don't see it myself.) Thank you!
I, for one, think "in the woods" does modify "the owls." Which owls shriek? The ones in the woods, not the ones in the zoo or on top of the mountain. I think that some grammar fans would say that if you started the sentence with "In the woods," there would be a case for saying that it's a prepositional phrase that modifies the WHOLE sentence. Or how about this: The owls, in the woods, shrieked ....In that case, it certainly is adverbial. And it almost "proves" that it modifies the whole sentence. Let's see what others say.
Thank you. And then there is this sentence, found on Pearson Adult Learning Center: "The baseball catcher moved his hand inside his glove; and the pitcher saw the signal easily." I would say "inside his glove" is adverbial, which is what the site shows. However, if I teach students that adjectives rely on their position in the sentence (which I have always taught) then how do I explain that this is adverbial? Also, I always teach that adjectival prepositional phrases follow linking verbs and found this on the same site: "The loveliest area to live in Vancouver IS near Stanley Park." Again, it is adverbial. Does the function of the individual preposition have anything to do with whether or not a prepositional phrase is adjectival or adverbial? I know English has many exceptions, but they need something they can hang their hat on.
Also, I'm sorry I'm writing anonomously. I'm overseas and all of my membership info is back in the States.
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I once asked ten teachers at the best adult ESL school in the United States (no name, of course) whether "far" was an adverb or adjective in "China is far." There was a 5 to 5 difference of opinion. In your sentence, surely "is" = is located. This site has great contributors. Hopefully, some of them will soon answer you.
"China is far" is the same structure as "she is beautiful" which is SUBJECT + verb (is) + adjective.

So "far" is adjective.

This is my approach toward adverbials which may or may not conform to the conventional grammarian rules. This is straightly my take as a former ESL student many moons ago. Please feel free to comment or offer constructive criticism. Adverbial can come in different forms and context in my opinion.

Adverbial phrases are groups of words formed into a fragmented phrase to modifier or provide additional information to the main sentence, i.e. “I heard some noise in the kitchen last night, sounding like someone was cooking…”. In a nutshell, if a phrase describes information pertaining to WHERE, HOW, and WHEN, then it is adverbial in nature which may be formed with prepositions and time markers, such as , in the kitchen”, “last night”, and “a few minutes ago” etc...

The other type of phrase is participle which does not reveal information pertained to the WHERE, HOW and WHERE, but it provides more detailed information to the main sentence.

Consider the sample sentence:

I heard some noise – is the main sentence

in the kitchen – describes where which qualifies it as adverbial.

last night- describes when which also qualifies it as adverbial.

sounding like someone was cooking…Participle.