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In response to the question "Where is she?", I've heard someone say, "She's back the hall." (Cf. "She's back there.") I understand the meaning to be something like "She's down the hall," "She's in the hall," or "She's in some room connected to the hall."

It seems that back is functioning as a preposition here, as it doesn't quite fit the adverb usage in its entry at M-W.

Is this a common usage in the sense of being documented in a reliable reference work or documented as an idiom or variant outside normal usage? If so, what part of speech is back?


Update: I have found an analogous phrase -- "Back the Alley", a decor and gift store in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Facebook page). The proprietor told me the origin of the name: "We started out in an unnamed alley and told everyone to go back the alley to find us."

I have some Pennsylvania parentage, so that may be why this construction sounds perfectly natural to me.

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what did the person mean when they said "She's back the hall"? –  Phil M Jones Dec 11 '13 at 15:03
    
Most likely "back" functions as an adverb here as well, and in this particular example the speaker omitted the preposition "to" - "She's back [to] the hall". –  Vilmar Dec 11 '13 at 15:08
    
Clarified question. –  metal Dec 11 '13 at 15:16
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Given that we still have no idea where she is, other than somewhere in some way related to a hall, I'd be surprised if this is normal usage. I'm sure it isn't in British English –  Phil M Jones Dec 11 '13 at 15:21
    
Agreed, it could be anything OP enumerated, and some other things ("She's [in the] back [of] the hall"...). So yes, all we have is that this person is somewhere near the hall. –  Vilmar Dec 11 '13 at 15:27

3 Answers 3

No, that isn't grammatical English. Similar correct sentences would be "She's in the back of the hall" or "She's back in the hall" (note that these have different meanings). As you point out, it looks like the speaker was trying to use back as a preposition, but it can only be used as an adverb or noun.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I finally got a satisfactory answer from an episode of "A Way with Words". In short, this appears a case of locative prepositional deletion where "back" is still functioning as an adverb but the preposition (which could be, e.g., "in", "down", or "through") is omitted. Like the instance AWWW discussed, this appears to be a regional variant located in and around the great state of Pennsylvania (see updated details in the question).

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While I would agree that this is not correct English I would question the way in which it was said. The origin of the speaker may well have influenced what was said. By adding an apostrophe it becomes "She's back 'the hall" suggesting either "in" of "of" have been omitted which would be perfectly acceptable for someone from, for example, the Yorkshire region of England.

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