In a related question, I got entangled in a debate whether the word "here" (which I would classify readily as an adverb) is in reality a preposition. I am curious which modern analyses find syntactical similarities between "here" and words like "in, at, on, for, to" that they range them in the same category as well as the reasoning behind them.

Of course I am aware that many English prepositions are actually adverbs (i.e. they can stand on their own, without relation to a noun, and express for example a location on their own, e.g. "I am in").

  • Can you point to any of the 'more modern analyses' that you mention? Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:32
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    Actually that is the point of the question. So, no, I cannot, but I admit the question could be phrased better.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:33
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    'Of course I am aware that many English prepositions are actually adverbs' Many linguists (e.g. Pullum) would say that these are not adverbs but intransitive prepositions. Unlike other adverbs, 'in' cannot appear freely in other parts of the clause, for one thing. One fact that favours treating 'here' as a P is that you can add 'right' in front of it (right here), which you can do for many other prepositions (right at, right on, right in) but not with other parts of speech (#right book, *right eat, *right red). Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 23:41
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    "Here" is a prepositional phrase (PP), since it can be conjoined with another PP: "I sleep here and in the kitchen".
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 6:50
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    @Greg Lee: "I sleep soundly and in the kitchen". Does that make "soundly" a preposition?
    – mobileink
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


"Here" is not a preposition per se.

By definition, prepositions come before a noun phrase (or determiner phrase) to create prepositional phrases:

He was (in (the house)).
They saw him (with (a knife)).

"Here" cannot do this.

*He was here the house.
*They saw him here a knife.


"Here" does act quite a bit like a prepositional phrase.

The typical way of testing where something lies in the syntax tree, is to apply a constituency test. Wikipedia provides some examples.

One common test is pro-substitution: if you can replace a sequence of words with a single pro-form, and get a grammatical result, then those words have the same category as the pro-form.

The repairman was here earlier today.
The repairman was somewhere earlier today.
The repairman was in the apartment earlier today.
*The repairman was somewhere the apartment earlier today.

Another test is coordination: if two phrases can be coordinated with "and", they're (almost always) the same type of phrase.

There are dogs inside and outside the house.
*There are dogs inside and here the house.
There are dogs inside the house and outside the house.
There are dogs inside the house and here.

These tests point to treating "here" as its own prepositional phrase.

  • I agree with this, here behaves syntactically like a prepositional phrase, and prepositional phrases have pretty similar distribution to adverbs: He lives here / He lives in the house / He lives abroad.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 21:35
  • @Eleshar Wht you've just said is that a preposition behaves like a whole load of other prepositions. Here does not behave like any bona fide adverbs such as locally, for example. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 21:29
  • I am happy to read a full-fledged answer comparing the distribution of word "here" against that of "full-fledged adverbs" (locally, abroad,...) and that of prepositions (at, onto,...) in a manner similar to the answer we are just commenting under.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 22:33
  • Or in other words, here is a pro-preposition.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 1:02

In addition to the popular right test that WavesWashSands refers to, evidence showing that here is a preposition - and not an adverb - comes from the fact that it can postmodify nouns (cf. The people here do not like changes), whereas real adverbs cannot. If, on the other hand, here were of some other category, say an adjective or a noun, it should be able to premodify other nouns, but, of course, it is not (cf. * The here resources are insufficient). Since a V, a Det, a Q, a Deg, etc., it cannot be either, analysing it as an intransitive preposition is virtually inevitable.

Here cannot by itself in general be analysed as a phrasal category (= PP), though, because it can be accompanied by its own dependents - not only right, but also PP's, as in Here in London, housing is terribly expensive __.

The fact that, in such an example, Here in London can be 'extracted' ( ?topicalized) as a whole from its VP/AP, but in London on its own cannot (cf. * In London, housing is terribly expensive here__) constitutes further evidence that 1) here in London is a unitary constituent, and 2) that both here in London and in London are PP's, because, otherwise, the extraction of the PP complement in London would not violate Ross's 'A over A constraint' (or: 'minimality', under later approaches to movement) and should be grammatical (as are other PP complements extracted from non-PP's above them), but of course it is not - which follows nicely from the 'A-over-A constraint'.

Then, obviously, if here in London is a PP, here must itself be a P, because it is the head of that phrase, as shown, and phrases are endocentric, according to the X-Bar principles. That is a desirable outcome, because, if here is the head of the PP here in London, its non-extractability from it (cf. * Here, housing is terribly expensive __ in London) needs no explanation, as heads of PPs (contrary to those of, e.g., VP's or AuxP's) can never be extracted, cf. * In, I have never felt at home _ Berlin.

That, by itself, is fairly strong evidence, I think, that here is, indeed, the head of the PP here in Berlin and, according to the endocentricity principle, a preposition, a conclusion that reinforces the evidence already presented in paragraph 1.

[The only other alternative (i.e., that the head of here in London were the preposition in, with London - its 'internal' argument - in its complement position, and here somewhere else, either as an adjunct or as a specifier) would not change things much, as we know from the arguments above that here cannot be adverbial, adjectival, nominal, etc., and must be prepositional anyway, but, apart from that, that possibility can be safely discarded for different reasons: PP adjuncts like here in London are 'predicates' whose 'external' argument must be 'discharged' by the 'e(vent)' variable associated with the VP/V' they modify, and, therefore, they cannot project their second argument in their specifier position, because, if they did, they would become 'saturated' and would no longer be able to 'take' the 'e(vent)' argument associated with the 'VP' they must modify. The specifier slot of such PP adjuncts, therefore, must be empty, which excludes here from that hypothetical position. Hence, if the head of the PP here in London were the preposition in, here could at best be an 'adjunct' of in (one under the scope of right, cf. right here in London vs. * here right in London), but, if so, it would also have to be a phrasal category, i.e., a PP. PP pre-modifiers, however, are severely restricted in distribution; short of in (semi)-lexicalized expressions such as an out-of-print book), they practically never occur, and, in particular, locative PP's seem impossible to construe as modifiers of other locative P's like in London; in all the examples I can think of, the analysis must be different, in terms of two independent locative PP's].

In sum: there is rather solid evidence, I believe, in support of the claim that here is, categorially speaking, an intransitive preposition, and a 'head', although, of course, it will also function as a phrasal category whenever it occurs on its own (i.e., without the ?adjunct right or complements like in London). [I deliberately leave aside here the question whether here should also be analysed as a P, instead of a 'nominal' (a DP) in postpositional expressions like hereafter, etc.

  • Yes, here can postmodify nouns (so can words like wheresoever, abroad or upstairs - are they prepositions too?). I am not, however, aware of any preposition that can, by itself, postmodify nouns. It is typically a PP that postmodifies nouns, not a preposition.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 16:42
  • @ Eleshar Sorry, but your first question aims at a straw-man. Sure many non-prepositional words and phrases can postmodify N's, even ignoring reduced Rel Clauses, but 'abroad' may be an A or, also, a lexicalized PP (from 'a(<on)+broad'), i.e., a P (of course, an 'Adv', in lay dictionaries), just as 'up/downstairs' are lexicalized PPs (from 'up'/'down'+'stairs'), etc. Anyway, I explicitly acknowledged that 'here', categorially a P, is ALSO a PP when on its own, and there are PLENTY of P's that, apparently 'by themselves', postmodify N's, cf. 'the way in/out',' the day after/before', etc.
    – user6814
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 18:24
  • Could it not be that in, out, after, before are actually adverbs rather than here a preposition (which is, actually, exactly how prepositions came into existence historically)? For me, the prepositions prototypical function is to form a PP with an NP/DP. Sure, there are cases when this is not necessary for one reason or another. But here and the like would apparently be the only case of a preposition that cannot do that while there are plenty of adverbs that can do things you use as proofs for the repositionality of here.
    – Eleshar
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 21:01
  • For example if due to endocentrism, here in London indicates here is a preposition because it is a head of a PP than surely the same applies for (studying) abroad in France or yesterday in the evening? Speaking of yesterday, this can postmodify nouns as well (and not premodify, afaik).
    – Eleshar
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 21:13
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    Nouns can be postmodified by adverbs as in examples like Industrial action resulted in the withdrawal indefinitely of the vehicular ferry service, and A shortage of timber internationally led to a steep rise in prices. In fact adverbial modifiers of nouns are restricted to post-head position.
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 17:56

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