"I went to the beach but there was no one over there"

"Dickie, come down here!"

"It's more comfortable up here"

I come across such sentences in movies and TV. What do they actually mean? Wasn't it enough to say "I went to the beach but there was no one there". Why did they have to put the over? Or does it mean something slightly different?

About the up and down , I have come to the decision that it has something to do with stairs. That is , say you live in a multi-storied building and you're on the top floor. If you want to ask someone from a lower floor to come to yours , you'll say "come up to my room" because he/she will have to go up the stairs. Same goes for "Come down here", going down the stairs. This is what I believe.Tell me if wrong.

But I've not yet succeeded in making something out of the over. Please discuss.Explanations with examples will certainly help the most. Thank you.

  • You're on the right track with the stairs, but it applies to anything that is above or below the person it's told to, and sometimes used in idiomatic sentences. For instance, if someone were to climb up a tree, he could say to someone on the ground: "Come up here, the view is great!" or "The view (of down there) is great from up here!" As for "over", it has to do with movement, when no particular altitude is taken into account. cf: this page
    – MorganFR
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


"Over", "down", "up", are not functioning as prepositions in those phrases, as they don't govern a noun phrase. They are spatial adverbs, further modifying the spatial deictic words "here" and "there".

"Up" and "down" are indeed usually used in this sort of expression when there is a physical height difference, as in upstairs and downstairs; but sometimes the elevation is notional.

So in British English (I suspect American too, but I don't know the details), there are quite a lot of notional or idiomatic uses of "up" and "down" where no physical elevation is relevant: "up to town"; "down to the shops"; "down South"; "up to the window (of a ticket office)". In any of these cases, I would expect to hear "up there" or "down there" correspondingly.

As for "over", "over there" functions as an idiom replacing the obsolescent word "yonder". In older English, "yonder" was the third term in a three-way series of deictics, as observed in many languages: "here", "there" (middle distance, or in the hearer's environ), "yonder" (distant, or away from both speaker and hearer). That role is now often expressed by the phrase "over there".

  • About the idiomatic usage that you mentioned, what do they signify? Interchangeable? I mean , "up to town=down to town" or "up south=down south" and so on? Or do they hold some particularly different significance?
    – user118494
    Oct 25, 2016 at 13:44
  • No, like many idioms, they are not interchangeable. If the town is in a valley and we're on a hill, then we might just say "down to town", but in any other case, we would only say "up to town". And "up South" sounds completely wrong. Note that "up North" and "down South" don't just mean "North/South of here"; they mean "to the Northern/Southern part of the country" relative to where the speaker is. More things that the learner just has to learn, I'm afraid.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 25, 2016 at 14:14

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