What is so peculiar about the adverb overland?

  • The marine brigade in Belgium cautiously advances to Picardy.
  • The marine brigade in Belgium therefore advances to Picardy.
  • The marine brigade in Belgium overland advances to Picardy.

So, if your native language is English as mine is, you immediately notice that the last of the three is wrong; but why, logically?

Why should the following be so strongly preferred?

  • The marine brigade in Belgium advances overland to Picardy.

This is not a necessary question. Obviously, I already know how to write the sentence. It is however a curious question. Can you think of a good reason to answer it?

The best reason with which I can come up is that "over land" (as two words) is a prepositional phrase, but that reason doesn't seem to wash, as far as I know. "Overland" is a word, not a phrase.

  • 2
    I think that your 'best reason' is correct: overland is simply a condensed prepositional phrase. Consider similar adverbs: I swam underwater, but not *I underwater swam; I traveled overseas, but not *I overseas traveled. – Anonym Apr 12 '16 at 21:54
  • Overland seems to resist being paired with other adverbs. ... advances swiftly and overland ... doesn't work, and it should do. – Phil Sweet Apr 13 '16 at 15:52
  • @Anonym: Please feel free to make your comment an answer so that it can be upvoted and (apparently, since it seems to be the only answer) accepted. – thb Apr 16 '16 at 0:41

Your 'best reason' is correct; although it is written as a single word, overland is simply a condensed prepositional phrase, and as such follows many of the same rules as a regular prepositional phrase would, including those about positioning.

So, we would say they advanced overland, not they overland advanced for the same reason that we would say I ran up the hill, not I up the hill ran.

Similar adverbs include overseas, underwater, underground, uphill, downhill, etc.

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