Adverbs of Place
What are adverbs of place?
Adverbs of place tell us about an aspect of location associated with the action of a verb, specifying the direction, distance, movement, or position involved in the action. Because adverbs of place are specific to actions of verbs, they cannot be used to modify adverbs or adjectives (with one exception, as we shall see).
We’ll first look at where such adverbs are used in a sentence, and then we’ll examine the different types of adverbs of place.
Position in a sentence
- “We were walking north.” (intransitive—adverb follows the verb)
- “He kicked the ball into the field.” (transitive—adverb follows the object)
- “My friend is moving far away.” (intransitive—adverb follows the verb)
- “The wind keeps scattering sand everywhere.” (transitive—adverb follows the object)
Adverbial prepositional phrases can also be placed at the beginning of the sentence. Doing so adds a large amount of emphasis to the location they describe. However, the resulting sentences are more likely to be found in literary writing; they might sound out of place or contrived in day-to-day English. For example:
- “In this house we have lived our entire lives.”
- “Outside the office, I could hear my parents talking to the principal.”
- “Across the meadow I spied a beautiful woman.”
Adverbs ending in “-ward” or “-wards” (such as homeward(s), eastward(s), onward(s), etc.) can appear at or near the beginning of a sentence to put emphasis on their description as well. Again, this creates a more literary style to the writing, and wouldn’t be suited to everyday speech or writing. For example:
- “Onwards we marched, hoping to arrive before sunset.”
- “Ever upwards the mighty redwood trees grow.”
The only adverbs of place that are very commonly used at the beginning of sentences are the adverbs here and there. As with the others, this adds emphasis to the location or direction being described, and we can also use them in this way to create exclamations. For instance:
- “Here is the book I was telling you about.”
- “There is the rest of the team!”
Now that we’ve seen where in a sentence the adverbs of place go, let’s look at the various types that we can use.
Types of adverbs of place
Adverbs of direction
Many adverbs of place indicate a specific direction of movement. For example:
Here are a few example sentences illustrating their use:
- “The house is situated north of the city.”
- “Let’s drive down a bit farther.”
- “They walked across the field.”
Adverbs of movement and direction
There are also adverbs of place that end in “-ward” or “-wards” that describe movement in particular directions, as in homeward(s), backward(s), forward(s), or onward(s). While quite similar to the adverbs of direction we looked already, they add a sense of continual movement along with the direction they specify.
Here are some examples used in sentences:
- “We headed eastwards.”
- “The people all gazed upwards at the meteor shower.”
- “You should always go forward in life.” (Describes metaphorical rather than physical direction and movement.)
In each instance, the word can include an “s” or not; they are interchangeable, so use whichever sounds better.
Toward and towards
Toward (or towards), while very similar to the above adverbs, is actually a preposition—it cannot stand alone as an adverb. It must be followed by a noun to create a prepositional phrase, which can then function adverbially to describe movement, as in:
- “I saw them coming toward me.”
- “He walked towards the car.”
Also note that while toward, without an “s,” is more common in American English, towards, with an “s,” is more common in British English.
Adverbs of location
These adverbs all indicate the location of someone or something in relation to someone or something else. They can each function either as adverbs, in which case they stand alone, or as prepositions, in which case they are followed by nouns to form adverbial prepositional phrases. Here are a few common adverbs related to position that can also function as prepositions:
- next to
Let’s look at some examples where these stand alone as adverbs, and then we’ll look at the same words functioning as prepositions.
- “We were waiting outside.”
- “I kicked the ball around.”
- “The others started lagging behind.”
- “We were waiting outside his office.”
- “I kicked the ball around the field.”
- "The others started lagging behind us.”
Adverbs of movement and location
Just as the “-ward(s)” adverbs indicated both movement and direction, other adverbs of place can be used to indicate both movement and location. Examples of these include indoors, inside, outdoors, outside, uphill, downhill and abroad.
Here are some sentences where these are used to describe both movement and location:
- "Our mother told us to go play outside for a while.”
- “I absolutely hate running uphill.”
- “They’re thinking of going abroad for their vacation.”
Note that, depending on the verb they are modifying, some of these may only describe location, as in “I am living abroad” or “I like camping outdoors.” These verbs do not indicate movement-based actions, and so the accompanying adverbs only specify location.
Unspecified location or direction
Everywhere, somewhere, anywhere, and nowhere are adverbs of place. They describe locations or directions that are indefinite or unspecific. For example:
- “I looked everywhere for my book.”
- “I would like to go somewhere tropical for my birthday.”
- “You’re going nowhere!”
- “Is there anywhere to sit down?”
In less formal speech or writing, “place” can be used instead of “where,” thus creating everyplace, someplace, anyplace, and no place. Note that only the last of these is made into two words.
Here and there
Here and there are adverbs of place that relate specifically to the speaker. Here indicates a location or direction that is with, towards, or near to the speaker, while there indicates a location or direction that is away from, not near to, or not with the speaker.
- “I put my book there.”
- “Yes, you can sit down here.”
- “Let’s go there for our trip.”
- “Turn here, please.”
And, as we mentioned earlier in this section, both here and there can be used at the beginning of sentences to emphasize the location they are describing or to create exclamations:
- “There’s the restaurant we were looking for.”
- “Here I am!”
(It may seem like there in the first example is functioning as the subject of the verb is, but it is actually functioning as an adverb. In this construction, the subject is the restaurant, which is inverted with the verb is.)
As the object of a preposition
Here and there are also often combined with prepositions to create more specific references to location. Note that, because they are the objects of prepositions, they are functioning as nouns in this case rather than adverbs. For instance:
- “Please put the table over there.”
- “Why are the keys up here?”
- “Don’t put your muddy boots on there!”
- “It’s rather hot in here.”
With the adjective bound
We’ve already mentioned that adverbs of place are not used to describe adjectives, but there is one unique adjective that can take adverbs of place: the adjective bound (meaning “heading, or intending to head, in a given direction”). Note that only adverbs or adverbial phrases specifying direction can be used with this, as in:
- homeward bound
- bound south
- bound for home
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