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It can't happen without hurting us.

What kind of adjunct is the PP "without hurting us" in the sentence above? Is it an adjunct of the condition (of lack/absence of something)?

Comments  

This is a prepositional phrase with the gerund "hurting" functioning as a noun, but retaining verbal aspects, such that it takes a direct object "us." This is a straight adverb phrase modifying the verb "can't happen." The preposition "without," which is often associated with "absence" or "lack of" something, does not have that function here.

anonymous

This is a prepositional phrase with the gerund "hurting" functioning as a noun, but retaining verbal aspects, such that it takes a direct object "us." This is a straight adverb phrase modifying the verb "can't happen." The preposition "without," which is often associated with "absence" or "lack of" something, does not have that function here.

The PP "without hurting us" (in the cited sentence) is analysed as an adjunct in modern grammar. It modifies the verb "happen".

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To comment further on this, the given sentence is unusual usage. For example, suppose the sentence were:


"It can't happen without Jim." Here we have the familiar "absence/lack of something" sense of the preposition "without": It can't happen in the absence of Jim.


But if we revise the given sentence to try to fit it to this sense, we get: It can't happen in the absence of hurting us. This is awkward to the point of being incomprehensible. The "without" in the given sentence does not have this familiar sense of "absence/lack of" It instead has a meaning similar to "unless": It can't happen unless hurting us. This meaning is not covered in the dictionary as a preposition, but shows up in the (regional speech) conjunction meaning:


He won't come without we invite him. (He won't come unless we invite him.)