There is a certain adverbial pattern composed of "[NOUN] and [NOUN]".

We work day and night.

It's raining cats and dogs.

They're arguing / going at it hammer and tongs.

I've seen that "day and night" has a direct translation in many languages, so I assume this sort of adverbial phrase composed of nouns is not uncommon.

How do these phrases composed of nouns end up being used as adverbs? How do you analyse them? Is it a completely idiomatic structure, or is there some way to connect it to more regular grammar?

  • Even without "and", noun phrases that refer to times can often be used adverbially. E.g. you can say "We work nights", "I'm working this afternoon" or "I'm working that day". – sumelic Mar 20 at 1:48
  • @sumelic I understand "day and night" figuratively, i.e. "a lot" or "too much", or "conscientiously". – CJ Dennis Mar 20 at 2:01
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    'cats and dogs' can be viewed as a direct object. The others have elided prepositions, which happened as the conjunctions became idioms. – amI Mar 20 at 5:03
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    They're not adverbs. As AML says, "cats and dogs" is an idiomatic NP serving as direct object of "raining". The NP "day and night" serves as a temporal adjunct. The idiomatic NP "hammer and tongs" is a manner adjunct -- it describes how they are "going at it". – BillJ Mar 20 at 8:08

Regarding constructions of this sort, you should take a look at Cooper and Ross's World Order paper. There are a range of principles that determine the order of conjuncts in these idioms.

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    Welcome to Linguistics! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – bytebuster Mar 23 at 18:02
  • The OP contained three questions. I provided a link for reference that goes into the analysis of such constructions. Others have addressed other aspects of the OP, but mine addressed a different one--the underlying basis for such doublets in English and other languages. It especially addressed the very last question--"Is it a completely idiomatic structure, or is there some way to connect it to more regular grammar?" I could try to provide a condensed version of the paper, if that seemed appropriate, but the Cooper & Ross paper is not very long. – Rick Wojcik Mar 24 at 20:56

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