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It was therefore a full week later - once they had surreptitiously obtained hairs from innocent Muggles who were Christmas shopping, and had practiced Apparating and Disapparating while underneath the Invisibility Cloak together - that Hermione agreed to make the journey.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

What's the grammar point for "who were Christmas shopping" then? It looks like Christmas is an adverb to modify the verb shopping, but Christmas is only a noun according to this dictionary. How should we understand the grammar here?

  • They were Christmas shopping. Like they were running, they were eating, they were sleeping. Youdon;t use 'on' with these. – Michael Harvey Nov 15 at 12:06
  • @MichaelHarvey, so, Christmas is used as an adverb to modify 'shopping'? I see 'shopping' as a noun, so I think "were on Christmas shopping" could make sense. Am I wrong? – dan Nov 15 at 12:07
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    There is no case in which "on shopping" would be correct. – Daniel Roseman Nov 15 at 12:20
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In fact, Christmas is acting as an adverb modifying the verb shopping, which is in present particle form (gerund- meaning it is an ongoing action) it is just like saying:

He was shopping for Christmas, i.e: he was buying things for Christmas.

Other examples for such constructions are:

He was break dancing - he was dancing in break style.

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Shopping is a verb in this case, referring to the Muggles being in the act of shopping.

Shopping could be used as a noun, perhaps referring to the process/institution of shopping, or also one could refer to ones groceries as "my shopping" (this is in UK English), though you wouldn't use the word "on" here either.

The word "Christmas" acts as an adverb here, describing the type of shopping.

  • What about Christmas? Is it a noun here? – dan Nov 15 at 12:23
  • I've updated my answer. – Chris Mack Nov 15 at 13:14

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