See this real-world conversation:

A: Something big going on in there?

B: I couldn't say.

A: You were in there a long time.

I would say "a long time" in the 3rd sentence is a noun & acts as an adverb.

I could see "a long time" adverb in the dictionary.

We got "awhile" (adverb) meaning "for a while" Source

But we don't have "alongtime" adverb in dictionaries, although we have "longtime" adjective

a lot of noun can act as adverbs

Yesterday was great

I saw her yesterday

So, Can "a long time" be an adverb meaning "for a long time"?


2 Answers 2


A: You were in there a long time

Sometimes groups of words can act as the functioning parts of a sentence. We call these pieces or chunks of language constituents.

The constituents in your sentence (A) include the following parts:

Subject= You

Verb= were

in there= a prepositional phrase working as an adverb (adverbial) to say where you were.

a long time= a phrase acting as an adverb (adverbial) to express a length of time (although the specific time isn't mentioned).

Therefore, it is true to say that a long time or for a long time are phrases that function as adverbs.


You were in there [a long time].

You’re conflating parts of speech with function. The constituent “a long time” is a noun phrase consisting of three separate words whose parts of speech are determinative-adjective-noun. Together the noun phrase functions as an ‘adjunct’, more specifically a ‘durational adjunct’, since it describes the duration of your being in there as ‘long’.

The preposition “for” could optionally be inserted, which would convert the noun phrase into a preposition phrase, though the meaning and function would remain unchanged.

Note that the term ‘adjunct’ is preferable to the term ‘adverbial’.

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