Continuing the grammar lessons that I started in late March, I want to talk about the words “there” and “more.” We rarely pay much attention to their role because they’re so common. The part of speech of “there” in particular is not always obvious.
What part of speech are they in these sentences?
—There is rain in the forecast.
—There are many ways to do the job.
—More often than not, it rains on the weekends.
—She’s correct in her assessment, more or less.
—We’ve all heard the expressions “less is more” and “that’s neither here nor there.
Before I continue, if any of you are wondering why I’ve been taking the time lately to delve into some of these perhaps esoteric aspects of grammar (as I did a while back with possessives and the genitive case), the answer is simple: The more you understand the function of the words in your writing, the better the writer you will be. Your writing will be clearer and cleaner because, by analyzing your sentences (particularly the longer ones), you’ll be able to better determine that the sentence is saying what you intend it to say and to decide is there is a better and stronger way to say it.
First, a brief review of adjectives and adverbs (in case you forgot)…
Adverbs answer these questions:
Where? (He is coming here) tomorrow.
When? (She is leaving now.
In what manner? (or How?) (The elderly man was walking slowly.
To what extent? (The city is very far from here.)
Adjective questions are these:
What kind? (Tom bought a red Corvette.)
Which one? (Please don’t bring Mike’s ratty sofa here.) (Both “Mike’s” and “ratty” are adjectives.)
How much? (She doesn’t have any patience with telemarketers.)
How many? (He bought several different snacks for the party.
Some sources add “Whose?” as one of the adjective questions, but that’s a variant of “Which one?”
Not a lot of words in the English language have the flexibility of being more than two (or three) different parts of speech. Both “more” and “there” can serve as a noun, pronoun, adjective, or adverb, and some of these usages may surprise you. All of these usages and definitions come from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an authoritative source, and not from my own deranged mind or from some questionable source.
USE AS NOUNS—
MORE: a greater quantity, number, or amount
—I liked the idea better the more I thought about it
THERE: that particular place or position or point
—Start there and follow the dotted line.
—I’ll let you take it from there.
USE AS PRONOUNS—
MORE: additional persons or things or a greater amount
—More will arrive shortly.
THERE: used as a function word to introduce a sentence or clause; used as an indefinite substitute for a name
—There shall come a time.
—There is nothing we can do about it.
I found the pronoun use of “there” interesting because I never really thought about it as a pronoun, but by definition a pronoun substitutes for a noun, and that’s the case here. In the third sentence, “there” is substituting for the name of the person being addressed. Interesting.
USE AS ADJECTIVES—
MORE: greater; additional
—The gift was more than she expected.
—More people than expected showed up at the concert.
THERE: used for emphasis especially after a demonstrative pronoun or a noun modified by a demonstrative adjective; capable of being relied on for support or aid; fully conscious, rational, or aware; colloquial or nonstandard use for emphasis after a demonstrative adjective but before the noun modified
—Those men there can tell you.
—She is always there for him.
—He seemed preoccupied and was not all there today.
—That there critter is gonna be the death of me someday.
Again, these are interesting, and I can hear some of you arguing that these all answer the “where” question of adverbs, and at first glance one is tempted to think that. But look closely at how “there” is used in each of those sentences. In the first “there” identifies which men we’re referring to, not their location. Now, if we had said “Those men standing over there,” then we’re dealing with an adjectival phrase “standing over there” but in that case “there” is indeed an adverb within that phrase because it does specify “where.”
In the second sentence again “there” appears to be an adverb, but it follows the second definition of being relied on for support or aid, so it’s telling what kind of person she is, not where she is.
In the third sentence, “there” describes his mental state, not where he is physically, so again it’s an adjective.
And in the fourth sentence, it’s a very clear use of “there” as an adjective because it tells which one.
As I said, these surprised me too.
USE AS ADVERBS—
MORE: in addition; to a greater or higher degree
—He repeated the instruction a couple of times more. (answering the adverb question “to what extent.”)
—The next two combatants were more evenly matched than the two previous ones.
THERE: in or at that place; to or into that place; at that point or stage; in that matter, respect, or relation; used interjectionally to express satisfaction, approval, encouragement or sympathy, or defiance
—Please stand over there and wait to be called.
—He often went there after work for a beer before going home.
—Stop right there before you say something you’ll regret.
—There is where I disagree with you.
—There, it’s finished.
For those of you who appreciate the versatility of certain words, here’s a link to a discussion thread about HOW MANY PARTS OF SPEECH CAN THE F-WORD BE USED AS?
And, yes, it CAN be used as a conjunction—which surprised me—as well as every other part of speech except preposition. While no one has figured out how to use it meaningfully as a preposition, someone does make a case for its use in that regard.
Till next time…