1. Everything is explained in the above sentence.
  2. Everything is explained in the sentence above.

i)which part of speech is "above" in the first sentence?

ii)which part of speech is "above" in the second sentence?

Please explain in detail.

  • "Above" belongs to the part of speech preposition in both your examples. Trad grammar classifies it as an adjective (or adverb), but it doesn't have the properties of a typical adjective.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 9:48
  • ... or a prototypical preposition. (We've both omitted the key word 'all' [the properties].) Comparison with 'Everything is explained in the next sentence.' is interesting. Commented Apr 28 at 13:50
  • The tradition is to call things "adjectives" whenever their intuitive (semantic) function is to modify the meaning of a noun or add information about the referent of a noun. This gives no real concept of adjective at all. It becomes the largest category of all, because every noun must be in it as well as every real adjective and every past participle form of a verb and every gerund-participle of a verb and every other item that can ever modify a noun. They even call relative clauses "adjective clauses". It's madness.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 14:10
  • There's also the fact that prepositions prototypically express location. "Next" is best classified as a determiner.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


[1] Everything is explained in the above sentence.

[2] Everything is explained in the sentence above.

Traditional grammar classifies "above" in [1] as an adjective and as an adverb in [2].

But it doesn't really fit where adjectives and adverbs usually fit. Compare:

This seems nice. *This seems above.

It became old. *It became above.

She is more intelligent. *She is more above.

Happy though I am, ... *Above though I am, ...

But where locative PPs fit, it does perfectly:

This goes in the closet. This goes above.

Put it underneath the sink. Put it above.

In the room, there was nothing. Above, there was nothing.

I want it right underneath. I want it right above.

So there are very strong reasons for saying that "above" belongs to the class of prepositions, not the class of adjectives (or adverbs).

There doesn't seem much doubt about it to me: we do not want "above" to be in the adjective (or adverb) class for any reason, and we don't need it to be for any reason. It's a preposition (one of the many that do NOT always need a noun phrase complement).

  • Words often exist as more than one part of speech. 'Everything is explained in the above sentence.' patterns after 'Everything is explained in the previous sentence.' and 'Everything is explained in the left-hand sentence.' Commented Apr 28 at 13:54
  • @EdwinAshworth There's no basis for assigning "above" to different categories according as it takes an NP or a clause as complement -- or no complement at all. For the record, Jespersen argued for treating items like "above", "after" and "before" the same in all three constructions a hundred years ago.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 14:16
  • This is just a matter of varying complementation, which is commonplace. It occurs withe verbs, too. Compare "I know her father" (verb + NP); "I know that he's ill" (verb + clause); "I know" (verb without complement). The word "know" retains it status as a verb in all three constructions.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 14:49

[1] Everything is explained in the above sentence.

[2] Everything is explained in the sentence above.

Traditional grammar classifies "above" as an adjective in both sentences:

In [1] you can substitute previous, last, earlier, etc. which are all clearly adjectives.

In [2] above is a depictive* adjective: "She arrived drunk" this is a form of "She arrived and she was drunk"

All that is required for something to be an adjective is that it modifies a noun of some sort.

*This differs from a resultative adjective: She shot him dead -> she shot him and as a result, he was dead.

Prepositions do not exist without a noun of some sort because, in combination with their noun, they create a modifier - either adjectival or prepositional.

  • The Oxford dictionary gives "above" in "Put it on the shelf above" as an adverb, not an adjective. That would apply to [2] as well. And I don't see the relevance of subjective predicative adjuncts to the OP;' examples.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 11:45
  • Also, preps often occur without a noun complement, e.g. "I hadn't seen her before". And preps can take clauses as complement e.g. "I left because I was tired", or another PP: "I stayed until after lunch". And don't forget stranded preps, as in "What did you do that for"? And PPs are not always modifiers; they are often complements, as in "the return [of the warrior]" / "an attack [by the premier]".
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 12:46
  • @BillJ You have pointed out to me on several occasions that dictionaries may not be the best place to look for the function of words. Secondly, the dictionary has made a common and elementary mistake: However, in "Put it above the shelf" above is a preposition and above the shelf is an adverbial prepositional phrase.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Apr 28 at 13:18
  • I only mentioned the Oxford because you said trad grammar treats "above" as adjective in both examples. I would say that in "Put it above the shelf", the PP "above the shelf" is obligatory since it is required to complete the verb phrase and thus is a complement, not an adverbial (modifier).
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28 at 14:29

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