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There is an example sentence:

We found a secluded beach a few miles further on.

In this sentence, I referred to the dictionary and found that the part of speech of further is an adverb. However on is given both as a preposition and an adverb, with very many definitions.

In addition, this post suggests that we shouldn't rely on dictionaries too much for grammatical information anyway.

The answers and comments below give responses from trusted users which give opposing analyses—some indicating on is an adverb here and some saying it is a preposition.

So I can't figure out that what the part of speech of on is. Secondly what is the meaning of on in this sentence?

  • Do the test. Try replacing it with a different word of which you now the part of speech for certain. See if it works. Can you replace "further on" with a noun? With a verb? an adjective? an adverb? Exactly one of these things will work. All other things will not work at all. That means that the syntax of the sentence only allows one part of speech in that position, and so that's the part of speech that "further on" is as well. – RegDwigнt Jul 27 '17 at 15:17
  • @RegDwigнt Well you can replace it with preposition phrases. But you can't replace it with bona fide adverbs, of course: "a few miles further far" is ungrammatical. So is "a few miles further distantly" and "a few miles further long". But "a few miles further into the forest" seems fine. So does "a few miles further down the road". (Oh, and "a few miles further in" and "a few miles further down"). Doesn't look like Nadia's talking ****** after all, does it? – Araucaria Jul 28 '17 at 0:34
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I think that 'on' is not a preposition, because there is no noun or noun phrase that could go with it. It must be an adverb. Cambridge Dictionary gives you this:

on, adverb (MOVING FORWARD), continuing forward in time or space: They never spoke to each other from that day on (= after that day).

Both in your example and in that provided by Cambridge Dictionary, the sentences would mean the same thing and be correct as well. The 'on' doesn't so much mean something definite as it adds a certain emphasis to the adverb/adverbial phrase further/from that day that it modifies, underlining an aspect of progression.

  • I refer to Oxford Dictionary, and I am not a native English speaker. And on can be used as an adverb and preposition. – zhenguoli Jul 15 '17 at 7:42
  • "A preposition or postposition typically combines with a noun or pronoun, or more generally a noun phrase, this being called its complement, or sometimes object." (Wikipedia, Preposition and Postposition) – Ashwin Schumann Jul 15 '17 at 8:11
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    Never use dictionaries for parts of speech. It's not what they're there for. – Araucaria Jul 27 '17 at 9:51
  • Interesting opinion, Araucaria. Maybe you should also point out what you don't like about my answer contentwise, because your claim sounds exaggerated. And you don't provide another source either. – Ashwin Schumann Jul 27 '17 at 10:21
  • For the reasons that linguists don't use dictionaries for parts of speech see here. For alternative analyses of intransitive prepositions see the preposition chapter here, in ASIEG, by Huddleston & Pullum 2005. It starts on p.126. Alternatively you could look in Oxford Modern English Grammar – Araucaria Jul 27 '17 at 13:36
5

Further on is a compound adverb. It makes no sense to ask what part of speech on is in this context.

Collins Cobuild English Grammar (p303) has other examples in the section on adverbs of position:

'Deep down', 'far away', 'high up', and 'low down' are often used instead of adverbs on their own.

  • The window was high up, miles above the rocks.
  • Sita scraped a shallow cavity, low down in the wall.

'Far' and 'far way' are often qualified by a prepositional phrase beginning with 'from'.

Google has numerous examples of the adverb 'further on' followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with from. For example:

  • Lexemes, lexemes, lexemes. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 15 '17 at 14:40
  • Hi Shoe. I don't think it makes sense to view further on as a compound word here. A few miles on shows that on works fine on its own. So with further on, it seems very reasonable to view further as a modifier of the word on. Another thing to think about is that we could easily stick a complement onto the word on here... – Araucaria Jul 27 '17 at 9:58
  • ... A few miles further on from where they had been. In this case on would be viewed as a preposition. There is at least some case to be made that on is a preposition as opposed to an adverb. Indeed, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language analyse instances of such words as intransitive uses of prepositions. – Araucaria Jul 27 '17 at 10:01
  • @Araucaria. Thanks for the tip about intransitive prepositions. Sounds like an oxymoron to me, but I look forward to reading what Huddlestone and Pullum have to say. So do I understand you to claim that further on from the hotel should be parsed: (adverb) further .. (prepositional phrase) on from the hotel, with on from being a compound preposition similar to in front of or out of? – Shoe Jul 27 '17 at 13:01
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    @Araucaria. Voted as requested - with the hope that you will provide your own answer! – Shoe Jul 27 '17 at 13:45
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The word "on" by itself is a preposition. " Further" is an adverb. Together, "further" and "on" make a prepositional phrase which I think works as an adjective here since it refurs to "miles".

  • Ok, thank you. And there are two different opinions. – zhenguoli Jul 15 '17 at 9:25
  • −1 I think you are confused what a prepositional phrase is. A prepositional phrase is not simply any phrase that has a preposition somewhere. Much rather, a prepositional phrase begins with a preposition that modifies the head of the phrase, the preposition's object, typically a noun phrase. An example of a prepositional phrase is "on the table", or "on Saturdays". "I sit on a chair" is not a prepositional phrase. "On and on" is not a preposition phrase. "Further on" is not a prepositional phrase. There is no head that the on is modifiying. The "on" itself is the head. It modifies nothing. – RegDwigнt Jul 27 '17 at 15:06
  • @RegDwigнt That idea of what a preposition is, is a little bit outdated now. It's now a hundred years since Otto Jespersen first pointed out that that view of prepositions is illogical. Since the seventies this has been a mainstream view in linguistics, and is the standard view of modern grammars such as The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language and Oxford Modern English Grammar. All in all, your comments to Nadia are a bit OTT, and, well, just rather misplaced. Many modern linguists would say that they are laughably wrong. – Araucaria Jul 28 '17 at 0:06
  • @RegDwigнt At the very least you should understand that the preposition is the head of the phrase (erm, that's why it's called a preposition phrase). The preposition isn't modifying the rest of the phrase. The rest of the phrase (if there is one) is its complement. In modern grammar (the kind they teach on syntax courses at universities and use in published research), prepositions, like verbs and other categories of word can take different types of complements (noun phrases, adjective phrases, adverb phrases, finite clauses, gerund-participle clauses, other preposition phrases), or ... – Araucaria Jul 28 '17 at 0:13
  • @RegDwigнt ... they may take none at all. In the same way that water in Water is good for you can be regarded as a noun phrase, and smoke can be regarded as a verb phrase in I smoke, the preposition out can be regarded as a preposition phrase in I went out. To the extent that works as an adjective is misleading, it is only as misleading as the thousands of people who regularly say the same thing on this site when what they really mean is modifier of a noun. (although a few miles is actually modifying further and that whole adverb phrase is modifying on, of course) – Araucaria Jul 28 '17 at 0:48

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