In my english lesson today i was told that "afterwards" is an intransitive adverb (I cannot write "afterwards this") while "after" is a transitive adverb. Is this distinction transitive/intransitive grammatically correct?

  • May we ask who sold you that?
    – Tushar Raj
    May 27, 2015 at 12:15
  • After looking at it in a completely different way i found this: english.stackexchange.com/questions/180398/… May 27, 2015 at 12:18
  • @Tushar, we use to say "name the sin, not the sinner". I already wrote too much for that matter :) May 27, 2015 at 12:19
  • Asking not to assign blame, but to establish the credibility of the source.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 27, 2015 at 12:20
  • From this: blog.writeathome.com/index.php/2012/12/… I undersand that a preposition can be transitive or intransitive and in the latter case it is behaving as an adverb... but i can't understand if it must be considered as a full fledged adverb or not. And i still have the doubt that it is possible to say a preposition is (in)transitive as i always heard this qualification only for verbs. May 27, 2015 at 12:45

2 Answers 2


In traditional grammar, words such as before were given different parts of speech according to what words they appeared before. According to this treatment we would see the following classifications in the following examples:

  • I saw her before [the concert started]. (conjunction before clause)
  • I saw her before [the concert]. (preposition before noun phrase)
  • I had seen her before[]. (adverb without following complement)

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, some linguists have been arguing that this type of classification is silly. After all, we don't do this with verbs:

  • I know [the doctor will be there] (verb before clause)
  • I know [the doctor] (verb before noun phrase)
  • I know []. (verb without a following complement)

In modern grammars such as The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language words such as before and after are prepositions in each of the examples further above. This is sensible because these words retain the same syntactic properties regardless of what kind of complement they take.

In the example I have seen her before the phrase before can be analysed as an intransitive use of a preposition. In the OP's example the word afterwards can be analysed as a preposition which is always intransitive. However, grammarians would not normally refer to afterwards as an intransitive adverb. The reason is that if its an adverb, then it's intransitive anyway. Adverbs hardly ever take complements - they're nearly all 'intransitive'.

  • +1 . . . . aside: ain't it getting old for you to be repeating the same lessons over and over again? Oh, wait, you be a teacher! I understand now. :D
    – F.E.
    May 27, 2015 at 17:52

Searching on google for "intransivite/transitive adverbs" give no suitable results but proposes "intransitive/transitive verbs" so I guess someone misspell some words and your answer is no.

An article about intransitive/transitive verbs.

  • Thank you Yohann. Unfortunately, i had already searched for this on Google and i could not find anything and this is why i decided to ask here the opinion of some experts. Also, there do not seem to be questions relative to this issue in stackexchange. But the fact that intransitive adverbs do not appear in google is not a source good enough to be brought to my good teacher. May 27, 2015 at 12:04
  • @JohannesWentu I think the contrary but I was just underline this fact. If it does not answer to you, I fully understand and wish you better answers.
    – Yohann V.
    May 27, 2015 at 12:21

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