By John Hubert


2013-04-11 00:30:41 8 Comments

What part of speech does here have in the following sentence?

I am here.

I say that in that sentence, here must be an adverb because:

  • It modifies the verb am by describing where I am.
  • Am is a “being” verb in this instance, not a “linking” verb.

My friend contends that here is a noun because the word here is, in this instance, defined as this place, which in Merriam-Webster is the definition for the noun here.

9 comments

@Fred_is_smart 2017-12-03 23:13:50

In this instance, “here" is a preposition. It is describing where something or someone is.

See this answer to the ELL question: “In “Give it here!”, is “here” a pronoun, adverb, preposition, or what?”

@NVZ 2017-12-04 07:08:11

@Araucaria - Not here any more. 2017-12-08 11:49:05

This answer is correct!!!

@John Lawler 2013-04-11 01:59:52

Both you and your friend are incorrect; sorry.
But that's not your fault; you're at a disadvantage,
if you take your definitions of "part of speech" from English books.
They're hopeless; pay no attention to them.

Here is a proximal deictic locative predicate in the sentence

  • I am here.

It does not modify the verb am.
It does not modify anything, in fact.
(Be) here is the Predicate in the sentence.

The logical form is

  • HERE (I)

The am is indeed an auxiliary verb, meaning -- if anything -- 'be located (at)'.

Executive Summary: Calling something an "adverb" is a confession of ignorance.

@Kris 2013-04-11 07:55:36

predicate: containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g., went home in John went home) (oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/predi‌​cate) -- am here be predicate, here be noun, then?

@tchrist 2013-04-11 10:52:12

I think it becomes even more obvious that here cannot be “adverb” when you swap around the word-order: “Here you are,” he said, handing me my order of fries. While that admittedly means something different than what “You are here” means, it still isn’t modifying the verb in some locative way, or else you could substitute in some other expression of location, like “On the other side of the counter you are”, he said, handing me my order of fries.” Not the same category at all.

@John Lawler 2013-04-11 15:42:22

@Kris: Not all predicates contain verbs, at least not in the end product. Auxiliary and other predictable verbs get deleted pretty frequently. Also "stating something about the subject" is not a useful definition, since it applies also to adjectives that modify the subject as well as predicates. This is where we came in.

@Bradd Szonye 2013-04-23 21:56:05

@tchrist I don't agree that "here you are" makes for a good analogy. The word swap fails because it breaks the idiom, not because it's ungrammatical. I think it's too quirky to be instructive for unrelated constructs.

@Revlis Lain 2014-07-10 02:44:45

I recognize the pragmatic analysis, but I think the question isn't something that needs to analyze the pragmatic function. It seems to be a simple question about syntactic declination of the part of speech. Analyzing the locative function of deitics (personal pronouns) isn't useful and does not actually answer the question put forth by the OP. Swan defines here as in the cases of 'Here it comes; There she is' as adverbs of place.

@John Lawler 2014-07-10 15:48:46

Swan is not playing with a full deck of parts of speech, and doesn't have usable definitions for the ones he does use. As I've said before, calling something an "adverb" is a confession of ignorance.

@Araucaria - Not here any more. 2015-01-15 15:12:39

It's a preposition. Prepositions are very good indeed at being deictic locative predicates!

@John Lawler 2015-01-15 16:16:26

Well, the equivalent would be a prepositional phrase in many languages. In Malay, for instance, 'here' is disini, where di is a bare locative preposition and ini is the proximal deictic (by itself, ini means 'this'; the s is just there to separate the roots). Together it means 'at this location'. But if here is a preposition, it's obligatorily intransitive, which is unusual.

@FumbleFingers 2015-01-16 18:54:01

@John: Do I understand from what you say here (and half-remembered points made elsewhere) that you professionals don't really bother much with "parts of speech" (or they use categorisation systems so much more detailed than "schoolboy grammar" that they're hardly the same thing at all)? I'm really out of my league here, but do I correctly understand that from your perspective, if you were forced to identify a specific "POS" for that one word in that one sentence, its' a "proximal deictic locative predicate"? But that you wouldn't "naturally" do this because it doesn't "lead" anywhere?

@John Lawler 2015-01-16 19:05:21

POS systems vary a lot. From language to language and also from one branch of syntax to another. Computational syntax programs tend to use extremely fine-grained POS sets, with hundreds of boxes, the same way speech-recognition programs use "phoneme" sets with hundreds of "phonemes" -- a total reversal of the linguistic concept of phoneme. In syntactic theory there is always a tendency to invent more non-terminal types for special purposes -- what I call the "angels and pinheads" approach -- which also raises the POS count. I'd say English has 20 or so indispensible POS categories.

@Louis Liu 2019-08-10 16:50:21

Sorry, but what are you talking about?

@John Lawler 2019-08-11 14:16:32

@LouisLiu: "POS" means "Part Of Speech", like the classic Latin eight: noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, participle, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. Those were invented about 200 AD by Latin grammarians. Though participle has slipped off the list and adjective has snuck in, these are the ones still taught in schools for English, which is not at all like Latin. Modern POS systems may have dozens of parts of speech, each of which has its own syntactic peculiarities. Like article, for instance; or quantifier (like much and more), etc.

@Edwin Ashworth 2019-08-11 14:23:10

@John Lawler Caught you! I think this is where I came in. Do any recognised POS systems separate 'deictic locative' from 'intransitive preposition'? And is there any other class given to 'on' in 'We got to the town where we were supposed to stay, but drove on' than 'int prep' or 'adv'?

@John Lawler 2019-08-11 14:50:59

@EdwinAshworth: POS systems used in computational linguistics, like automatic translators, may well have such distinctions. As was found in speech recognition and production software, the more specific categories you can recognize, the more specific and accurate your rules for applying them can be. The result there is that there are systems out there with several thousand "phonemes" for English. Of course, they borrowed the term without the meaning -- linguists would call those "allophones", if anything -- but the same is happening in syntax, and the end is not yet.

@Edwin Ashworth 2019-08-11 15:03:14

Thank you. It looks like we're heading towards a wave theory of syntax.

@John Lawler 2019-08-11 16:35:49

Possibly. I'm rather impressed with Sue Schmerling's new book on "neo-Sapirian" syntax.

@James K 2020-06-28 09:20:05

"Not playing with a full deck" doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It implies either "stupid" or "crazy". You just mean "you don't have access to the same books as I have had". I will edit to avoid the likely unintended insult.

@John Lawler 2020-06-28 17:43:17

Not playing with a full deck means not using the full set. It's literal, not metaphoric. There are many more parts of speech possible, so restriction to eight names with poor definitions is unnecessary abasement.

@mahmud k pukayoor 2019-08-11 15:20:33

  1. I am here.

  2. I am a student.

  3. I am here in the kitchen.

In the first sentence, am is the main verb meaning exist. In a sentence like I exist here, the word here shows the location and does the function of an adverb of location.

In the second sentence, am is a linking verb so that it does not denote any action other than linking the subject to its complement.

What do here and in the kitchen function in the third sentence other than functioning as adverbs?

@Louis Liu 2019-08-10 16:45:36

No doubt, "here" is an adverb. But that is not the point. The point is, the "here" in the sentence can be interpreted as an adverbial or a predicative.

For example, in

"He has been in a garden",

is "in the garden" an adverbial phrase or a predicative phrase? I contend that it is a adverbial phrase, as is "here" in the question sentence, because "in the garden" and "here" answers the question of where. Also, "In the garden" and "here" are not a subject complement, namely a predicative, because "is" or "has been" is not a linking verb. They are the verbs that express existence (used to show the position of a person or thing in space or time). [see the 2nd entry of the meanings of "be"in Cambridge Online Dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-chinese-traditional/be]

@Araucaria - Not here any more. 2019-08-11 15:12:19

You sound like you've been looking up grammar info in a dictionary!!! Don't do it! It's not what they're meant yo be used for! Use a 21st century academic grammar book.

@Louis Liu 2019-08-12 05:28:02

Do not judge the source. Debate the argument.

@Araucaria - Not here any more. 2019-08-12 15:27:38

This is a site for linguists et al. We have to judge the source. It's our job. The credibility of the information's very important!

@Louis Liu 2019-08-13 00:50:30

I don't quote the dictionary only. See my arguments.

@Araucaria - Not here any more. 2019-08-13 06:34:09

My comment wasn't about your post in general. (I do think you need to consult a vetted grammar source, though)

@Tuffy 2017-12-04 15:39:47

I am not sure how to answer the question. Most of the answerers have given well reasoned and well supported accounts. It is possible that we have to accept there are different, equally valid, ways of slicing up the language, as long as they are internally consistent.

However, the problem of supposed adverbs is not confined to the copula (the verb to be)

Most, if not all, intransitive verbs can be modified by ‘adverbs’.

“Where are you going?” “Over there.” This might be cheating. My exact meaning depends on my pointing into the distance or at a map.

“How do you feel?” “I feel well.”

“How are you?”. “Well.” « Comment allez vous? » « Bien » “Come sta?”. “Bene”. Even «Τι κάνετε;» «Καλά»

French and Italian have different intransitive verbs for how are you: “How are you going”; “How are you standing”. Greek preserves what in ancient Greek gets called the adverbial accusative of an adjective. Literally, “*What are you doing?” “Good things”! We have a similar adverbial usage of the words good and great. This probably originates from American English.

Here and there are certainly deictic words. This just means they are words of showing (from the Greek deiknumi). The word is equivalent to the Latin-derived demonstrative, familiar to British of my generation.

The sentence “I am here” conveys no information other than that someone is claiming to be somewhere. To have its full meaning, we need to have other information, such as prior knowledge (of the identity of the speaker and, for example, of the fact that s/he has been traveling to a destination already known me). Or perhaps I am a small child and my father is pointing at a spot on a plan he has made of the room in which they both are.

None of this changes what I think is the simple fact that at least for everyday users of the language, ‘here’ is a kind of adverb (a demonstrative, or deictic, if you prefer, adverb). It modifies the verb am, just as well can.

@MrsTeacher 2014-12-10 01:03:00

"Here" is a pronoun and used as the direct object in the sentence. "Here" is referring to an unnamed place. In context, "here" would be easily identified as the place you are standing.

@Andrew Leach 2014-12-10 08:07:15

Welcome to ELU. You're saying that the verb am in that sentence takes a direct object? It's normally described as a copular verb. In a sentence like "Press here" to say it's a direct object might perhaps be valid, but even in that case the direct object is understood to be "this" and omitted. In that case, here might be more of an adverb, although Edwin Ashworth's "locative particle" is rather good.

@Sylvia Winik 2014-03-17 23:10:09

Well, I did think that 'here' and 'there,' as most often used, would be adverbs. They modify the verb. They are not adjectives. It did occur to me that they could be prepositions, but the definition of prepositions -- A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and another word in the sentence -- suggests that they are not: they don't show a relationship at all, and certainly not one between a noun or pronoun and another word in a sentence. By process of elimination, then, as well as the fact that they tell you the location of the verb -- or modify the verb -- I believe 'here' and 'there' are adverbs.

@Edwin Ashworth 2013-04-26 22:29:13

I'm in agreement with John Lawler that here is not an adverb here: as he says, 'It does not modify the verb am.' One has to really stretch the meaning of modify for that not to be true (which some linguists do).

Intuitively, though, here is more closely associated with the noun group (a pronoun in this case) than with the verb - the speaker's location rather than 'how' he is existing. We could compare 'I am cold', where 'am' is obviously a delexical verbal link between subject and some attribute. But 'cold' is adjectival, describing an inherent characteristic, while 'here' expresses the reference of a noun or noun-phrase in the context, rather than attributes (which are expressed by adjectives). We're almost at the definition of determiners here, but there is more semantic content to 'here'. I think that words like 'here', 'there', 'home' (in 'Is he home?' 'He went home') need their own category (and a working name for this is locative / directional particles).

@Ryan 2013-04-11 00:42:47

"Here" is an adverb in the sentence,

I am here.

As you indicate.

"Here" is a noun in the sentence,

Let's get away from here.

Here's a definition! (Which is adverbial usage.)

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