1

He continued on his way.

'on' is a preposition or an adverb?

If it's an adverb, can I say "He continued his way on."?

1 Answer 1

1

"On his/her/their/... way" is a fossilized adverbial expression, which means whatever structure it once had, it's now a single unit that cannot be separated.

THAT SAID, we can still tease out what the structure used to be by playing with it linguistically, which you've already started, but I want to keep going.

If "on" is an adverb, that means it modifies "continued", and can probably move to some other part of the sentence:

On, he continued his way.
He on continued his way.
He continued his way on.
.

Nope, none of them work. We can also try asking questions where the answer would be the adverb "on":

How/Where did he continue his way?
On.

The question doesn't even make sense.

Next, since removing an adverb usually doesn't break the grammar, we can try removing "on" to see if the rest of the structure makes sense:

He continued his way.

This sentence makes "his way" the direct object of continue, so it doesn't work.

OK, let's see if "on" is a preposition. That would mean the phrase "on his way" is a constituent phrase, and we can probably (1) reorder it, (2) ask questions about it, (3) remove it and (4) create cleft sentences with it:

(1) On his way he continued.
(1) He on his way continued. (very unnatural, but still grammatical)
(2) Where did he continue? -> On his way. (iffy)
(3) He continued.
(4) It's on his way that he continued.

"On his way" passes every test as a phrase, so it's a preposition with "his way" as the object.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .