What part of speech is early in "I had my lunch early"?

Is it an adjective or an adverb?

  • 3
    I think it's General Reference that "I had my lunch early" is an adverbial usage, and "I had an early lunch" is an adjectival usage. – FumbleFingers Sep 14 '13 at 17:20
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    As such this would be a good question at English Language Learners because it pertains to learning English, plus no research efforts are shown. – user51029 Sep 14 '13 at 17:35
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    And who cares, anyway? In English the distinction is almost useless unless you specify more, like "temporal adverb". Time words behave differently from other adverbs, and they're not the only special group. Learning to identify "The Eight Parts of Speech" in grammar is about as elementary and useful as learning to identify eight different plants or animals in biology. Kind of irrelevant for grownups, really. – John Lawler Sep 14 '13 at 17:37
  • In any case, don't ask for a fish, learn to fish. You think it's an adjective? Try replacing it with another adjective. You think it's an adverb? Replace it with another adverb. This question is too localized as is. – RegDwigнt Sep 14 '13 at 18:26
  • @JohnLawler: why not give your comment (or an elaboration on it) as an answer? “The classification you’re using is out-dated and inaccurate; here’s a more meaningful classification” is a very useful answer to a question like this; and moreover, such an answer takes it beyond general reference, since most standard references simply say that it’s an adverb. – PLL Sep 14 '13 at 18:33

The word early can certainly be used as an adverb of time (See Adverbs of Time list)

If it feels strange to you to call it an adverb, just try replacing it with a more "familiar" adverb

I had my lunch quickly.

It's an indication of how the verb had was carried out.

  • And what's wrong with the reasoning that in this sentence, you can also replace early with a more "familiar" adjective? "I had my lunch cold". – Peter Shor Sep 14 '13 at 18:52
  • @PeterShor I guess the distinction can be made by asking which sentence answers the question How was your lunch? and which one answers the question How did you eat your lunch? – Joseph R. Sep 14 '13 at 19:11

I think it's an adverb in this case. To use it as an adjective, you can say

I had an early lunch.

  • 'I got up early in the morning' . Here it is ? – Shivani_S Sep 14 '13 at 17:25
  • adverb. @Shivani_S – Noah Sep 14 '13 at 17:28
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    A good answer should provide an explanation, plus external links are encouraged. – user51029 Sep 14 '13 at 17:37

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