Down went the Titanic.

What part of speech is down in this context? I have to choose between a) Preposition, b) Noun, c) Verb, and d) Adjective. But I think the correct answer should be "adverb", which is absent from the list.

What do you think about it?

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    When you say "have to choose," what do you mean? Is this homework or a test question? Sep 8, 2015 at 14:01

3 Answers 3


Go down is a phrasal verb meaning ‘sink’. It’s made up of the verb go and the adverbial particle down. Adverbial particles normally follow the verb, but they can, as here, be placed before it for emphasis.

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    So you think this is an Adverb
    – Haque
    Nov 10, 2013 at 17:44
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    That might be one way to analyse it, but you can’t really separate down form went. In this sentence they form a single semantic unit. In any case, down is here neither a preposition nor a noun nor an adjective. Nov 10, 2013 at 17:48
  • @BarrieEngland - Is "to go down" really a phrasal verb? Or would the term compound verb be more appropriate? I think a phrasal verb is a verb composition whose meaning you can't find out from the basic meaning of verb and compound particle. -I agree with you that "down" in "to go down" is an adverbial particle; that's the traditional term in grammars. - In "Down went the Titanic" we have a stylistic inversion. I would say not so much for emphasis, but to convey a certain dynamics.
    – rogermue
    Sep 8, 2015 at 1:43
  • @rogermue In my opinion, a true phrasal verb is a verb and particle combination in which the two form a semantic unit AND the particle can move around in the sentence. "Take off," is a good example. Take off your shoes, or take your shoes off. If the particle can't move or is "locked." It's not part of a phrasal verb. Sep 8, 2015 at 2:39
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    @michael_timofeev - This is not the traditional use of the term phrasal verb. That the particle can be movable is a separate feature that has nothing to do with phrasal verbs. -en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrasal_verb
    – rogermue
    Sep 8, 2015 at 2:47

Let's have a look and examples.

  1. The Titanic went down (went is a verb , down is a adverb)
  2. Now let's reverse the sentence.....
  3. Down went the Titanic (Down is still an adverb)

English is full of tricks:

down went the Titanic, up went the flag, out went the dog, up flew the parrot, in came the students*, out came the whip, for example.

The phrasal verbs here would be: go down, go up, go out, fly up/down, come in/out.

You can take the preposition and place it in front of the main verb.

Generally, down, up and out, etc. would come after the verb. This is either poetic or funny or emphatic in some way.

  • When I opened the kitchen door, out went the dog running and barking.

The emphasis I wanted here was to stress the outbound movement.

Mostly, these will be phrasal verbs that have been used in this manner.

There are many more but I can't be expected to come up with every one of them.

Even, for example, in sailing: a sailboat is said to come around (change direction when it is on the wind).

  • Around came the boat, and all the students knew enough to change sides.

For reference on phrasal verbs

Bear in mind that a real phrasal verb is not a verb and a prepositional phrase, that is somewhat different. (The dog went down the stairs.)

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