Since I heard that "He climbed the mountain up" is incorrect, I've been asking people why that is.

The composition He (Subject) + climbed (transitive verb) + the mountain (direct object) + up (adverb) looked correct to me.

Many people answered my question saying that it is incorrect because the word "Up" is not an adverb, so putting in "Up" after the direct object, which is adverb's position, makes the sentence incorrect. This was contrary to my knowledge. I have known the word "Up" as an adverb all my life, and every dictionary lists the word "Up" as an adverb with lots of examples. So I thought they were just claiming some grammar that was not commonly accepted and that there was no way "Up" was not an adverb. So I did not really pay attention to their answers and didn't even ask them back why "Up" was not an adverb.

But of the people who answered my question, one or two people explained in detail why "Up" was not an adverb. I couldn't understand their explanation 100%, as I did not know the grammar required to understand their explanation, but their explanation reminded me of all the people who had said "Up" was not an adverb.

Is "Up" an adverb or not? After reading the answers to my previous questions, my understanding is this:

Every dictionary lists "Up" as an adverb and has examples of "Up"'s usage as an adverb. But "Up" doesn't always work the same way an adverb does. In certain cases, "Up" works like an adverb, but in other cases it doesn't. It is an adverb with limitation (or maybe not an adverb at all if all the dictionaries' examples of "Up"'s usage, as an adverb, is actually examples of "Up" as a particle in phrasal verbs?). So placing "Up" after a direct object, when the verb is non-phrasal, transitive verb, is not allowed because "Up" is not an adverb, or even if "Up" is an adverb, it just can't be placed there? (Someone told me putting "Up" in after a direct object makes it sounds as if it is a separated particle. So it adds more to the reason/rule we can't place "Up" after a direct object).

Is that why "He climbed the mountain up" incorrect?

By the way, I know "Up" can be placed after a direct object when the verb is separable phrasal verb and "Up" is a particle.

Although "Throw the ball up"'s meaning is the same as the meaning of each individual words combined, it is still classified as a phrasal verb. So I wonder, does the same rule applies to that?

  • 2
    No, up is never an adverb. The only argument for it being an adverb is this: "The word class 'preposition', by definition, means 'a word that comes before a noun phrase'. For this reason, when up doesn't come before a noun phrase it cannot be a preposition. And therefore because we cannot say it is a noun, verb or adjective adjective, and because it is meaningful and isn't a determinative/determiner it must be an adverb. And it belongs there because 'adverb' is the general dustbin of word categories where we put words we cannot deal with." <-- It's a silly argument on every level. Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 22:37
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Thank you so much. "Up" bothered me a lot. Now I feel satisfied. But why is "Up" not an adjective? Is it because although "Up" works like an adjective sometimes, there are almost no syntactic properties of adjectives that "Up" fulfils? And "Up" has properties that adjectives can't fulfil? So although we use "Up" like an adjective sometimes, it can't be classified as an adjective? But while we can't say "Up" is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb, nobody disagrees that "Up" is a preposition, do they?
    – A S
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 5:59
  • 1
    Before you can answer the title question, you have to realise that you will find arguments over the precise definition of 'adverb' (and all other parts of speech). Until these are settled, no unequivocal answer is possible. Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


Up is what you make of it

I don’t mean to upverb the ante uppreposition your alley, but a word in isolation of syntactic considerations cannot ever have a part of speech.

So I’m afraid that you cannot say that upnoun “is” an adverb — not all on its own, it’s not. It’s just a word.

My references below will show you that I’m not just making all this upadverb, so please don’t pass upadverb giving this answer your upadjective vote. It’s just one of life’s little upsnoun and downs. I’m sure things will look upadverb soon enough.


  1. The OED says that up is a adjective, citing:
  • 1890 ‘R. Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer (1891) 131
    The up coach leaving and the down one just coming in.
  • 1895 Law Times 100 133/2
    A cottage near the up side of the railway line.
  1. The OED says that up is a preposition, citing:
  • 1849 T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. ii. 191
    The Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames.
  • 1851 Official Descriptive & Illustr. Catal. Great Exhib. II. 366
    By which the weight on the horse's back is regulated in going up or down hill.
  1. The OED says that up is a verb, citing:
  • 1984 Listener 3 May 16/1
    Some competitors see it as his way of upping the ante.
  • 1915 C. H. Sorley Lett. (1919) 255
    Suddenly the division ups and marches to Aldershot.
  1. The OED says that up is a noun, citing:
  • 1895 ‘M. Corelli’ Sorrows Satan iv
    It implies..that one must choose an up or a down,—genius is the Up, money is the Down.
  • 1890 A. Conan Doyle Sign of Four xii
    I've had ups in my life, and I've had downs.
  1. The OED says that up is an adverb, citing:
  • 1853 Public School Matches 16
    An appeal to the umpire, and up goes the ball.
  • 1887 Mrs. J. H. Perks From Heather Hills I. vi. 114
    Eliza's hands went up in horror.
  1. The OED says that up is a completely different adverb, unlike the previous, citing:
  • 1855 R. Browning Up at Villa ii
    Up at a villa one lives, I maintain it, no more than a beast.
  • 1892 Photogr. Ann. II. 407
    It closes itself either way, with the piston up or down.
  • 2
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. It's a matter of the namespaces afforded by varying representational frameworks. When things like determiner and mesoclitic and particle and quark and intensifier and postposition and circumjunction aren't among the available bucket labels bequeathed to us from the elder gods, then we poor mortals have no other choice but to play the cards dealt to us, not create our own out of fresh cloth and call them any less imaginary.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 22:59
  • I don't think the up of pass up is an adverb. I think pass up is a phrasal verb and that you can't separate the two and say it's an adverb. The same with pass down.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 18:35

"The word class 'preposition', by definition, means 'a word that comes before a noun phrase'.

Unless, of course, it comes before an infinitive or a participle. In such cases, it's still a preposition. Nothing in the nature of a preposition requires it to precede a noun phrase. It's a connecting word, similar to a conjunction in some respects, connecting an antecedent idea to a consequent idea, but different from a conjunction in that it governs the consequent idea in the objective case if the consequent idea is in fact a noun or pronoun; or it governs the consequent idea in the infinitive mood if the consequent idea is a verb. If the consequent idea is a participle ("He spoke of the writing he had accomplished on his vacation," "Only God can prevent the sun from rising," or "My dad prevented me from hunting deer") and only if the participle has the unambiguous sense of a noun, I parse it as a noun and attribute the objective case to it; as in "She told me about the sunbathing she had done on the Riviera". But if the participle (specifically, here, the participle in "-ing") denotes an action, with or without an object, I find it a stretch to call it a noun or noun phrase (if it governs an object) just because some dictionary declared it to be so. "Only God can prevent the sun from rising," seems a clear case of the participle being an activity, and therefore not any sort of noun. Similarly, in "My dad prevented me from hunting deer," the participle is both active and governs an object ("deer"), again making it a stretch to call it a "noun phrase" just because a dictionary definition averred "prepositions come before noun phrases."

I have often found dictionaries to be faulty when it comes to grammatical definitions and insights. I think it would be fruitful to define a preposition as a kind of word that connects an antecedent idea and a consequent idea, which shows the manner of the connection, and which governs the consequent idea in the objective case iff it is a noun or pronoun; which governs the consequent idea in the infinitive mood iff it is a verb; and which governs a participle simply as a participle, without case or mood. It's important here to distinguish between the "consequent idea of the preposition" and the "object of the preposition." They're not the same. "Object" suggests case, while "consequent idea" suggests something broader to which "object" belongs but is not limited to.

Regarding a verb being governed in the infinitive mood by a preposition, see the following:

"She went to hear a concert." "To" is just a preposition here, governing the verb "hear" in the infinitive mood.

"After the beautiful music she heard at the concert, she could nothing except cry." "Except" is a preposition governing the verb "cry" in the infinitive mood.

"After the sever scolding he received, the boy could do nothing except be extremely polite. "Except", again, is a preposition; "be" obviously is an infinitive.

  • "The word class 'preposition', by definition, means 'a word that comes before a noun phrase'." That's not a good definition, not least because prepositions can go after nouns (or in other languages in even more positions, so the term "adposition" may be preferred). Wikipedia defines them as "a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (in, under, towards, before) or mark various semantic roles (of, for)."
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 11:09
  • 1
    The word class named 'preposition' means precisely what you want it to mean, like every other grammatical term. Every linguist agrees on the clear cases and not on the unclear cases, and some linguists prefer to pass out fancy names as if they explained the grammar rather than just labelling the chunks. Some grammarians like me think of English prepositions as pieces of the machinery with little residual meaning flecks left in the grease; others think they're important pieces, still others think they're adverbs, or case markers. You pays your money and you takes your choice. Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 22:06
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    >The word class named 'preposition' means precisely what you want it to mean Why limit this wonderful freedom to grammatical terms? It's a truism applicable to any word, even words that describe eating utensils. But when you're at a restaurant with friends and the consommé arrives, it's best not to try eating it with the utensil that you arbitrarily decide to call a "spoon" but which everyone else calls a "fork." You won't get very far. Words refer to things in real life (or relations among things in real life), and things have functions. Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 22:52

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