What is a disjunct in English?

This post will help understand what a disjunct is, how to identify it, and how it works in a sentence.

What is a disjunct in English?

A disjunct is a type of adverbial in English that modifies an entire clause and passes a comment on the situation. It generally shows the point of view of the speaker, what the speaker/writer feels about the situation.

Unlike an adjunct, a disjunct is not integrated into the structure of a sentence. It sits outside the area of the sentence it modifies and passes a comment on: it sits outside the syntactical structure of the clause it modifies.

Technically, Jon won the fight.

Here, the adverb ‘technically’ is a disjunct as it is sitting outside the main clause and modifying it. It is showing what the writer feels about the situation in terms of its technicality. It is an adjunct to the core meaning of the sentence and be taken out of it, unlike a complement in English.

Sadly, all schools and colleges in our city will be closed from the next week.

The word ‘sadly’ tells us the speaker/writer is sad about the happening of the event. It modifies the entire sentence and lets us what the speaker feels about this situation (sentence).

NOTE: Disjuncts are often known as sentence adverbs as they modify an entire sentence. Also, note that all adverbs are adverbials. Any element of a sentence that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence and sits peripherally (at the beginning or at the end of the sentence) is a disjunct. It is offset using a comma. The comma helps us understand that it is not essential to the sentence.

Disjunct explanation infographic
Disjunct explanation infographic

Types of disjuncts

Disjuncts are broadly divided into two types:

  1. Style disjuncts
  2. Content disjuncts

Style disjuncts

These are words or phrases that refer to the manner or style in which the speaker is saying something. How or in what manner can you say something?

You can be serious, frank, angry, sarcastic, happy, sad, etc. You as a speaker or writer can say something or deliver a message, being in any of the states. You can be sarcastic, happy, sad, frank (and more) about a statement.

Examples:

  • Frankly, Jane does not want to work with you anymore. (The speaker is frank while saying this.)
  • Sadly, everyone in our team got fired last week.
  • To be serious with you, your team didn’t work hard to get the credit.
  • Strangely, my girlfriend never tells me anything about her parents. (The speaker finds it strange that his girlfriend never tells him anything about her parents)
  • Fortunately, I was there to help her.
  • Unfortunately, the last bus had left the stand and I had to wait there for hours before my brother came to pick me up.
  • With all due respect, Jon is better than you in sports.
  • Jokes aside, you should complete the assignment.
  • Hopefully, our business will resume by the end of this month.
  • Practically, this number is almost impossible to achieve.

Content disjuncts

Contents disjuncts usually refer to the speaker’s degree of truthfulness or certainty about the situation. Here, the speaker shares their opinion in terms of the accuracy of the truthfulness of the sentence.

Examples:

  • Certainly, you are coming with us on the tour. (The speaker is certain about the situation)
  • Clearly, the man was cheating with her.
  • Undoubtedly, you deserved to be the next leader of the team.
  • Truly, I didn’t know she was your sister.
  • Probably, they made a mistake in choosing their lawyer.
  • Perhaps she was drunk when she came to the office.
  • Obviously, we wanted to help you.
  • To the best of my knowledge, she left the job because of her family issues.
  • Apparently, no one wants to work with us.

More examples of disjuncts

  • She has been wanting to try something on her and not be dependent on anyone. In other words, she wants to leave this job.
  • This is a very serious disease; you can’t take it lightly like you generally take these things lightly. In brief, you need to see a doctor right away.
  • In short, I want to go home.
  • Your guy is new to this industry and has never worked in it. It would take months for him to understand and follow the process. In conclusion, he is not a good candidate for this job.
  • Finally, we are getting to do what we want.

Disjunct vs Verb adverb

An adjunct (adverbial), which can be a word or a phrase, can be a disjunct or a simple adjunct. Disjuncts modify a complete sentence, whereas adjuncts (verb modifiers) modify the main verb of the sentence. They both function as an adverb though.

Adjuncts

  1. Jon strangely enters the room and rushes towards the back.

    (Here, the word ‘strangely’ is modifying the verb enters. It tells us how Jon performed the action: in a strange manner.)
  2. I seriously worked with these guys.

    (I worked in a serious manner. The word ‘seriously’ is modifying the verb.

Disjuncts

  1. Strangely, Jon enters the room and rushes towards the back.

    (Here, the speaker finds the entire situation strange. He/she finds it strange that Jon entered the room and rushed towards the back.)
  2. Seriously, I worked with these guys.

    (I am serious when I say that I worked with these guys. The word ‘seriously’ is modifying the entire senrence.)

Related lessons:

Hope you now feel confident about this topic and find yourself in the position of using the concept whenever required. Do share the lesson with others to help and feel free to ask your questions in the comment section.

Disjunct in English
Ashish Sharma
Ashish Sharmahttps://englishwithashish.com
Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

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