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What exactly is an “adverb”?

Consider the following sentences:

  • She went home.
  • He swam yesterday.

Are the words "home" and "yesterday" adverbs or direct objects? Why? They both seem to modify the verb, but they are also both nouns.

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marked as duplicate by StoneyB, Mark Beadles, MετάEd, Marthaª, tchrist Oct 21 '12 at 23:46

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
Related to, and possibly a duplicate of, this question. –  tchrist Oct 18 '12 at 23:32
    
Welcome to ELU, James. It's an excellent question about something they don't usually bother to teach you in school. These are nouns used as adverbs; the responses to the question in tchrist's link explain what that means, so the question will probably be closed; but if they leave you puzzled, you may come back and edit your question to focus on what's still not clear and it will be re-opened. –  StoneyB Oct 18 '12 at 23:39
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1 Answer 1

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She went home.

"Home" is an adverb in this sentence. The word "went" can't take a direct object because it is an intransitive verb. This distinction is a difficult one to make. The wikitionary page goes more in depth about the use of the word "home" as an adverb.

He swam yesterday.

"Yesterday" is also an adverb. Any time word or expression that describes when something happened is an adverb. This is also the case for locations. Moreover, swam is also an intransitive verb, which cannot take a direct object.

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1  
Swim can certainly take a direct object--She swam the seven seas. He swam the ocean (looking for her(. Possibly also He swam the length of the pier. (That last one, however, is probably best analyzed as an adverbial phrase of measure, not a direct object, as in He weighed 50 pounds (compare He weighed 50 pounds of beef.).) –  Merk Oct 19 '12 at 1:42
    
"swam is also an intransitive verb, which cannot take a direct object" - are you sure or are you just kidding? –  Blessed Geek Oct 19 '12 at 7:29
    
@BlessedGeek see the above comment –  Ataraxia Oct 19 '12 at 13:14
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