The boy done good revisited - to finish perfect.

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Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
Watching snooker recently I was struck by an expression used by the commentators: he's finished perfect on the green.

I was just thinking how our grammar tyrants would be sneering about this adjective used as an adverb, when I wondered: could this be an adjective correctly used?

What is meant is clear: he's finished in a perfect position on the green (to pot the green). My point is that he hasn't finished perfectly - the perfect isn't qualifying the finishing; he's finished in a perfect position...

One might say of a child in a paintball fight, it seems to me, that he started white and he finished green. The white and the green are surely adjectives correctly used - this isn't a case of the boy having done good.

What do people think?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think that, for me, it's non-standard.

    There are verbs that I would happily follow with an adjective:
    The sun shone bright.
    He ended up dead.

    But "finish" isn't one of them.

    Other people may feel differently:).
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Watching snooker recently I was struck by an expression used by the commentators: he's finished perfect on the green.
    I've noticed this very much in snooker too. I'm not a great sports fan, so can't extrapolate, but I do watch snooker and I've noticed for years that it is almost obligatory to drop the "ly" from adverbs and to eschew the usual past participle in favour of the preterite as in "he's came off the side", "he's went and potted the white" or "he's took on the black".

    I don't think I've ever heard a snooker commentator not do this or use a "-ly" adverb. As such I'd view it as an idiolect to snooker (or perhaps wider than that within sport, but as I say, I don't watch a lot of other sport so can't comment). I imagine there might be some isolated instances of the standard grammatical forms - but I can't say I've noticed.
     
    Last edited:

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I thought you were right, but my feeling came from having played snooker and recognizing that yours is a plausible explanation for what commentators were saying.

    I have never watched televised snooker. If I had, and had heard “He’s came off the side”, it would have prepared me, not to reject your idea, but to question whether it was worth looking for that idea in the first place.

    “He’s finished perfectly to pot the green” would have delivered the same message without inviting questions about grammar or meaning.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think that, for me, it's non-standard.

    There are verbs that I would happily follow with an adjective:
    The sun shone bright.
    He ended up dead.

    But "finish" isn't one of them.

    Other people may feel differently:).
    The BNC has an example a little similar: We both finished up pissed.

    Maybe what is non-standard is the omission of the up.

    Would you accept He's finished up perfect on the green?
     

    Ashed

    New Member
    English - UK
    I think that, for me, it's non-standard.

    There are verbs that I would happily follow with an adjective:
    The sun shone bright.
    He ended up dead.
    ...:).
    Cobuild calls verbs with 'little semantic content' that may be followed by an adjective link verbs. Be is by far the most commonly used in this way: He is cold. It was very quiet.

    Without trying to analyse where the boundary lies, I'll add that they then go on to mention quite a large number of other verbs which, while having more obvious semantic content, do link the subject to an adjective (ie they connect a modifier to the referent (appearing as the subject, though possibly only delexical it) being modified).

    Tom became angry. It grew darker. They looked dejected. It felt strange. He fell dead. The rose blushed pink.

    A complication is that an intervening direct object may be used, in the 'secondary predication' construction:

    The smith hammered the metal flat. He drove her crazy. He drove the car drunk.

    Notice that now, the adjective may be modifying the subject or the direct object.

    However, there are not many instances where the construction without the direct object can be claimed to be using the adjective not to modify the subject's referent. Thus, OP's he started white and he finished green is a typical link-verb usage, linking the attributes to the subject.

    I agree though with OP that in this example 'What is meant is clear: he's finished in a perfect position on the green (to pot the green). My point is that he hasn't finished perfectly - the perfect isn't qualifying the finishing; he's finished in a perfect position...' We often omit words that are not strictly necessary.

    The fact that this seems a novel situation (perfect can hardly be argued to have an existence as an adverb) opens up the claim for ungrammaticality.

    However, it could be argued that

    Herd shot wide. (cf 'He's wide with that one.')

    Woods putted short. ('He's short with that one.' / 'He's finished short.')

    Day has driven long on the 18th.

    have equal claims to being considered examples of adjectival or adverbial modification.
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    As regards 'wide', 'short' and 'long', the adverbial form with -ly either does not exist or has a different meaning.

    I doubt if the comparison sentence 'He is perfect on the green' is correct.
    I would say the intended meaning of that sentence is better expressed by 'He is perfectly on the green'.
    On the other hand, an examiner might say of someone taking the driving test: 'He is perfect on the three-point turn'.

    My conclusion is that the intended sense of the original is properly expressed as:
    'He's finished perfectly on the green'.
     
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