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What is the explanation for why we say "I'm going downtown" instead of "I'm going to downtown?"

  • There you are using a noun to specify a location. If you think that makes it an adverb, that so be it. Today I was late going downtown, but tomorrow I’ll be even later going downtowner. – tchrist May 7 '13 at 23:36
  • Yes, downtown can be used adverbially. It is also listed as an adverb in various dictionaries. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica May 8 '13 at 4:12
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"Go downtown" is similar to "go overseas", "go abroad", "go bankrupt", etc., in the sense that while it looks like a noun - and indeed it can act as one occasionally - it usually functions as an adverb.

  • Bankrupt usually functions as an adverb? Really? – tchrist May 8 '13 at 6:00
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    In a similar way to bananas. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '13 at 7:58
  • @EdwinAshworth So someone who has gone grey has turned grey into an adverb then? I don’t think they have, because grey refers to them, not to their going. Similarly with bankrupt. – tchrist May 8 '13 at 12:04
  • Perhaps I'd better give up trying to be subtle. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '13 at 20:29
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    I'd classify constructions such as go mad / crazy / bananas / grey / bankrupt as link-like structures (go = turn, become, having more semantic content than be) with predicative adjectives. Go downtown / out / in / home / abroad / overseas employ go in its primary, physical-travel sense. It is probably better to lump the directional terms as such rather than as true adverbs. This is probably wise for locatives and temporal completers also. – Edwin Ashworth May 8 '13 at 20:57

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