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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.

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Related to this question about “noun-adverbs”. –  tchrist Apr 11 '13 at 10:55
1  
'Am is a “being” verb in this instance, not a “linking” verb.' - I know what you're saying, John, but wouldn't you agree that be in this sort of construction is delexical - its only purpose is to connect the subject (I in this example) with its location (here)? Collins takes this view, labelling this usage as link-verb usage, though admittedly the AHD does not. Infants, and I believe some languages, don't use a verb at all in this type of construction (John .. there!; me here). English usually requires a verb in grown-up utterances, so we use the obvious one. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 26 '13 at 19:56
    
Be is not a normal verb. In English it can't normally be modified by adverbs. In German it can and constructions like I am slowly are possible. –  hippietrail Dec 4 '13 at 5:17

4 Answers 4

Both you and your friend are incorrect; sorry.
But that's not your fault; you're not playing with a full deck,
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, like the Spanish auxiliary estar, 'be located (at)'.

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

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predicate: containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g., went home in John went home) (oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/predicate) -- am here be predicate, here be noun, then? –  Kris Apr 11 '13 at 7:55
    
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. –  tchrist Apr 11 '13 at 10:52
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@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. –  John Lawler Apr 11 '13 at 15:42
    
@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. –  Bradd Szonye Apr 23 '13 at 21:56
    
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. –  Revlis Lain Jul 10 at 2:44

"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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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).

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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.

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