This film is well worth seeing.

This film is well worth seeing.

According to Longman Dictionary “woth” is a preposition here. I wonder why we can’t classify it as an adjective? I think it may have something to do with the noun (not sure, really) “seeing”.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Screen:

You are 100% right: there are two ways to parse “worth.”

Some say that it is a preposition; others say that it is an adjective.

Here is what a famous writer wrote many years ago:

The important fact is that the adjective “worth” requires what is most easily described as an object. It is meaningless to say “This is worth,” but sense to say … “This is worth saying.”

And here is what another expert says:

“Worth” is the only adjective that governs the accusative: “The book is worth reading.” [My note: “governs the accusative” is another way to say “takes an object.”]

In my OPINION, then, I think that some dictionaries (and teachers) feel that if a word acts like a preposition, it’s easier for everyone to call it a preposition.

Why make students remember that “worth” is the only ADJECTIVE that takes an object?


First source: A DICTIONARY OF MODERN ENGLISH USAGE by Henry Fowler (1965 edition), page 719.

Second source: A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1931) by George Curme, Vol. I, page 103.

Thank you very much for your clarification, James.

I understand what you said perfectly. The only thing that is a bit confusing me is about the word “well” in the sentence.

This film is [color=blue]well worth seeing.

As I know, adjectives can be modified by adverbs but it seems that there is no rule for prepositions.

If we consider “worth” is a preposition in that sentence, then what part of speech the word “well” modifies?

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Screen:

Wow! What a great student you are! Most native speakers (of any age) would never think to ask such an insightful question. (That’s my opinion, of course.)

  1. Since “well” modifies “worth,” then is that not “PROOF” that “worth” is, in fact, an adjective?

  2. As you have learned, scholars often disagree on how to parse certain words.

  3. Furthermore, according to some books, an adverb CAN modify a preposition.

a. “The fireworks display will begin right after the game.”

i. Mr. Eugene R. Moutoux in his website “German - Latin - English” says that “right” modifies the preposition “after.”

a. I would not be surprised, however, if other experts claim that “right” modifies the whole phrase “after the game.”


The experts often do not agree on how to analyze English. That is why there are so many grammar helplines that are so full of FRIENDLY disagreements!

Thanks for the great explanation, James.
I have learned a lot from this thread. The idea that an adverb can modify a preposition is totally new to me.

I would like to know if the phrase “after the game” is an adverbial phrase or a prepositional phrase. If it is an adverbial phrase, the opinion that “right” modifies the whole phrase “after the game”, to me, makes good sense.

However, I tend to think that “after the game” is a prepositional phrase and now after reading your answer it also easy to understand as I find a lot of similar examples.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Screen.

As I understand it, a prepositional phrase can be EITHER adjectival OR adverbial.

As you said, “after the game” is a prepositional phrase (because it starts with a preposition) and in that sentence most high school books would say that it modifies the verb. When will the display begin? After the game. Therefore, it is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb.

On the other hand, that prepositional phrase could also be adjectival. I have made up this bad example:

The dance after the game was a great success. Which dance was a great success? The dance after the game. Therefore, it is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective.

I mentioned “high school books” because if you study university-level linguistics (which I have NOT – way too difficult for me), you will discover that those professors do not like to use words such as “modify.” They feel that saying X modifies Y is too simplistic.


Thanks again for all your help and very useful information.

Actually, I am learning English on my own.
BTW, I am curious to know about the term that those professors want to use instead of “modify”. “Complement” is the only one that comes to mind now. However, I know little about this.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Wow! You are certainly doing a fantastic job of learning on your own.

I am not kidding you: you know more grammar than most native speakers here in the States.

Hopefully, someone who has studied linguistics will answer you. I can barely understand high school grammar.

Here are a few quotes from a book that I have. It will give you a taste of what modern linguists think:

  1. “Modification is a concept that linguists steer away from; it is too vague and too narrow.”

  2. "[Some kinds of adverbs] do not ‘modify’ other elements in a subordinate fashion, and they are not a part of them; instead, they are ‘related’ or ‘oriented’ to other sentence elements, about which they provide additional information.

[MY NOTE: We recently had an exciting discussion about “My friends are mostly non-smokers.” I wanted to know what “mostly” modifies. As you can sense, “mostly” seems to have some “relation” or “orientation” to the noun “non-smokers,” but I guess that linguists would reject the idea that it “modifies” that noun.]

  1. “Some linguists find the word ‘scope’ useful. To say that an adverb has certain words in its scope is to say that it colors our understanding of those words.”

So, there you are: related to, oriented to, within the scope of.