7

Would you show me if there could be any potential difference semantically between the two?

Please, would you possibly take into account the bounds of possibility that the word "nearby" in the following could be an adjective, or even an adverb:

  1. I live in a nearby town.
  2. I live in a town nearby.

Furthermore, what is the difference between these following pairs semantically, being distinguish between adjective, preposition or even an adverb.

First pair:

A) I sometimes meet friends in a nearby restaurant.

B) I sometimes meet friends in a restaurant nearby.

Second pair:

C) I ran to the telephone box nearby to call an ambulance.

D) I ran to the nearby telephone box to call an ambulance.


UPDATED:

  • First off, thanks all for your invaluable concerns as to problems. However, my most problem is about discerning between being an adjective or an adverb, not comparing them just as an adjective.

  • Second, my more specific problem is that if we distinct them as once an adjective and next an adverb what different meaning could be caused? (Such as the sentences above.)

UPDATED:And, would this one be incorrect?I hope to visit you in your near home. [near cannot be used before a noun to refer to distance] ........

........................

Edited: This part of answer has been prosed by one of the dear members, However, I failed to get it. Could you tell me more about it in a more readily way?

SEMANTICS:: the relationship of "nearness()"

Many locational prepositions have an associated semantic relationship that takes two arguments. Usually both arguments can be locations, or one is a location and the other is a situation. For instance:

The tree is near/nearby the river. In that above example, there is the relationship of "nearness()" that involves the two arguments "the tree" and "the river". That is:

nearness( the tree, the river ) <-- semantic relation Many times one of the arguments can be covert (that is, implied or understood from context). E.g.

Go near/nearby the river.

nearness( ("you":implied), the river )

and,

The tree is near/nearby the river. nearness( the tree, ("the river":implied) ) and,

The tree is near/nearby where we are. nearness( the tree, ("where we are":implied) ) For an example where one argument can be a situation:

Tom killed a bird near/nearby the river.

nearness( Tom killed a bird, the river )

where the first argument is the situation describe by "Tom killed a bird".

  • Should your second one be "live" too? – Catija Mar 24 '15 at 15:32
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    A), adjective (or preposition, if you accept H&P's reasoning). Functioning as a modifier in a noun phrase. Cannot be modified by right. B) Preposition (adverbs generally cannot post-modify nouns). C) Preposition, same answer as for B. Example D), same as example A. – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 14:29
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    my personal recommendation - don't use 'nearby' as a preposition. It's either adverb or adjective. Learner's dictionary backs my statement. I updated my answer. Have a look and you decide! – Maulik V Mar 28 '15 at 4:13
  • If you're of the persuasion that the word "nearby" could sometimes be an adjective (or at least seems to be functioning in an adjective-y way), then perhaps there might, for some sentences, be a difference in meaning between the two general constructions as used in your two examples. Consider the level of acceptability for: "I went to a nearby mountain to collect rocks" vs _"I went to a mountain nearby to collect rocks". :) – F.E. Mar 30 '15 at 18:17
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    It would be helpful for readers if you could select the answer you gave the bounty to as the main answer. If you do this it will rise to the top of the answers and more readers will read this very useful answer post! – Araucaria Apr 3 '15 at 13:15
-1

Your (1) and (2) would function the same most of the time. But if I try, I think I can imagine a context where they would mean slightly different things.

(1) I'm telling someone an anecdote, about something that happened to me. I'm far from home when I tell this story. Let's say the story starts out in a town not far from my own -- let's call it Jackson. At a certain point in my story, the listener needs to know that the town where I live isn't far from Jackson. Maybe there's going to be a dramatic car ride to go pick up some item that is urgently needed in time for a concert that's going to start shortly. Let's say the item was in a suitcase that the airlines have misplaced. To explain that my town isn't far from Jackson, I say, "I live in a nearby town. So I jumped in my car and drove home as fast as I could. I grabbed my copy of the score of Beethoven's Fifth and raced back to the concert hall in Jackson, arriving just as the orchestra was tuning."

(2) Note that this sentence wouldn't work in the story about the dramatic car ride.

Moving on. In (A), "nearby" is describing "restaurant;" since "restaurant" is a noun, "nearby" functions as an adjective in this sentence. In (B), "nearby" tells us where you live. Therefore it functions as an adverb in this sentence.

(C): adverb; (D): adjective; same analysis as for (A) and (B).

To get better at distinguishing between adjectives and adverbs, I recommend that you start by practicing with simple sentences. Use a different symbol to indicate each one -- for example, circle the adjectives, and underline the adverbs. You could even use different colors. BUT before you do that, you should get completely solid on identifying NOUNS and VERBS. When you can do that comfortably and easily, the adjectives and adverbs will jump off the page at you, for the most part.

Do you have a teacher who can check your exercises?

5
+400

QUESTION: The word "nearby", is it an adjective, a preposition, or an adverb?

Consider the following three examples (where the first two are somewhat similar to the OP's examples):

  1. [A nearby house] was for sale.

  2. [A house nearby] was for sale.

  3. A house was [nearby], and it was for sale.

Let's look at the possibility that all three examples are using a preposition "nearby".

Actually, this is the position that I will be supporting in this answer post--that the word "nearby" in the three above examples (and also in your first two examples and in the rest of your examples) are prepositions.

CAVEAT: This is only an argumentation. It does not mean that this argumentation is "correct"; and it doesn't mean that other reasonable argumentations which differ from my position cannot be made.



Argumentation:: "Nearby" is a preposition

First, I'll present some stuff about the semantics of the word "nearby" (as used in all the examples, mine and the OPs), and try to show that the semantics are associated with a relationship that is very similar to those of locative prepositions.

Second, I'll present some syntactic tests to try to show that the word "nearby" as used in examples #1 and #2 is an internal dependent of a noun phrase (NP); and that it is a locative complement in clause structure in example #3.


SEMANTICS:: the relationship of "nearby()"

Many locational prepositions have an associated semantic relationship that takes two arguments. Usually both arguments can be locations, or one is a location and the other is a situation. For instance:

  • The tree is near/nearby the river.

In that above example, there is the relationship of "nearby()" that involves the two arguments "the tree" and "the river". That is:

  • nearby( the tree, the river ) <-- semantic relationship

This relationship nearby() is associated with the meaning of the words "nearness" and "near" and "nearby", which is the meaning that two things are near each other.

Many times one of the arguments of nearby() can be covert (that is, implied or understood from context). For examples of this:

  • A.1. "Go near/nearby the river."
  • A.2. nearby( "you":implied, the river )

and,

  • B.1. "The tree is near/nearby the river."
  • B.2. nearby( the tree, "the river":implied )

and,

  • C.1. "The tree is near/nearby where we are."
  • C.2. nearby( the tree, "where we are":implied )

In examples #A-C, one of the arguments is not explicitly expressed in the example sentences.

For an example where one argument can be a situation:

  • D.1. "Tom killed a bird near/nearby the river."
  • D.2. nearby( Tom killed a bird, the river )

where the first argument is the situation describe by "Tom killed a bird".

(ASIDE: For more info on this sort of topic, please see Araucaria's answer post.)


Now, as for adjectives, in general they have an associated property type of relationship that has just one argument, where that argument is something that can have that property. Often, that something can also function as a predicand. For example:

  • the [tall] boy

  • The boy is [tall].

For both, there is the relationship "tall()":

  • tall( boy )

where the "boy" is that something that has the property of "tall" (tallness).

But the relationship nearby() doesn't take just one argument. And so, that is another reason for the unlikelihood of the word "nearby" as being an adjective.


In other words:

Think of the semantic relationship "nearby()" as basically involving two things that are near or nearby to each other. You need two things. For example, if you are near a tree, then two things are near each other: "you" and "the tree". That gives nearby(you, tree). Notice that you can't have nearness ("near" or "nearby") with just one thing, for that wouldn't make any sense at all. (Except when one thing is a thing and the other a situation, as already shown above.)

So this relationship associated with the word "nearby" takes two arguments: nearby(x,y). One thing is near another thing -- that necessarily involves two things, thus two arguments. Though, one of the arguments might not be explicitly mentioned. For example: "the tree is nearby". In this example, one thing is "the tree" and the 2nd thing is understood by context, and so the 2nd thing could be the speaker or some other point of reference.

It is common for many prepositions to be associated with two arguments like this. Think of other prepositions like: on, in, off, out, above, under, etc. The preposition indicates the relationship between two things, e.g. "on" means that one thing is on another thing, "off" means that one thing is off another thing, etc.

Now let's look at the adjective tall(). It takes only one argument. One thing has [the property of] tallness. E.g. "Tom is tall" and "the tall boy", each of them is represented by tall(Tom/the boy) with only one argument. There is no other 2nd thing: neither explicitly given nor implicitly understood. It is common for adjectives to be associated with exactly one argument like this.

Now compare that to "the tree is nearby" and "the nearby tree". Both of them actually have two arguments for nearby() because there are two things involved in this relationship: one thing is "the tree" and the other thing is some understood reference point (the speaker or something), because you need two things for "near" or "nearby" to make sense.

Conclusion: We consider "tall" to be an adjective in both "Tom is tall" and "the tall boy". Part of that reason is that tall() is a relationship that takes one argument. Note that in "Tom is tall", we do not consider "tall" to be an adverb -- it is still an adjective. Correspondingly, for "the tree is nearby" and "the nearby tree", for both of them the word "nearby" has the relationship nearby() which takes two arguments, and so, it seems reasonable to consider both occurrences of the word "nearby" to be prepositions. (And, for similar reasons, it seems reasonable to consider the word "nearby" in "the tree nearby" to also be a preposition.)


SYNTAX:: Some constituency tests:: Clefts

Identifying constituents is often an important, or a necessary, step in making an argumentation. Cleft constructions, such as it-clefts and pseudo-clefts, can often be helpful in identifying constituents. In general, an element of the original clause is foregrounded in the cleft versions; and if that element can be successfully foregrounded, then that is evidence that that element is a constituent.

To support the preposition argument, I will make attempts to show that the expressions within the brackets ("[xx]") in the following three examples are (via tests) constituents:

  • 1.a. [A nearby house] was for sale. <-- original #1

  • 2.a. [A house nearby] was for sale. <-- original #2

  • 3.a. A house was [nearby]. <-- first main clause in the original #3

For #1.a and #2.a, the expressions "a nearby house" and "a house nearby" would be considered to be subject NPs--thus, a constituent--for those two examples respectively. For #3.a, the expression "nearby" would be considered to be a constituent by itself.

The constituent test for #2.a is quite important here, because if it is shown that the expression "a house nearby" is a constituent--an NP--then that could weaken the argument that the word "nearby" within that expression "a house nearby" is an adverb.

[ASIDE: Note that relatively rarely does an adverb function as a post-head dependent of a noun or nominal (though they do exist, e.g. "the people were upset by the arrival recently of a tiger"). Though, an adverb does often function as an external modifier in an NP, e.g. "the car alone", or else as an element that is embedded inside a phrase that is itself a dependent of the NP.]

To show how unlikely it is that the word "nearby" in #2.a could be an adverb, let's add stuff after it:

  • [ A house [nearby] [that Tom could afford] ] was for sale.

Notice that the relative clause "that Tom could afford" is an internal dependent of the subject NP that is headed by the noun "house". And that big subject NP is a constituent, as can be seen via a cleft:

  • It was [ a house [nearby] [that Tom could afford] ] that was for sale.

and it is structured similar to:

  • It was [ a house [near the park] [that Tom could afford] ] that was for sale.

which uses the PP "near the park" instead of the PP "nearby".

[ASIDE: Though, it seems that, in this discussion of these last three examples that were just given, it probably doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility of interpreting the word "nearby" as being an adverb in them.]


Example #1:

Clefts can be used to try to show that the expression "a nearby house" is a constituent in #1.a.

  • 1.a. A nearby house was for sale. <-- original

  • 1.b. It was a nearby house [that was for sale]. <-- it-cleft

  • 1.c. [What was for sale] was a nearby house. <-- pseudo-cleft

  • 1.d. A nearby house was [what was for sale]. <-- reversed pseudo-cleft


Example #2:

Clefts can be used to try to show that the expression "a house nearby" is a constituent in #2.a.

  • 2.a. A house nearby was for sale. <-- original

  • 2.b. It was a house nearby [that was for sale]. <-- it-cleft

  • 2.c. [What was for sale] was a house nearby. <-- pseudo-cleft

  • 2.d. A house nearby was [what was for sale]. <-- reversed pseudo-cleft

In #2.b, the NP "a house nearby" is foregrounded. This shows that the word "nearby" is a post-head dependent within the NP. That is, the word "nearby" is part of that NP.


Let's also try to show this (that the word "nearby" is part of the NP) when the constituent isn't the subject. For instance:

  • n.a. They bought a house nearby.

  • n.b. It was a house nearby [that they bought]. <-- it-cleft

  • n.c. [What they bought] was a house nearby. <-- pseudo-cleft

  • n.d. A house nearby was [what they bought]. <-- reversed pseudo-cleft

Those above examples, again, show that the word "nearby" is part of the NP constituent "a house nearby".


Let's try to show that the word "nearby" is part of a constituent NP in the OP's #2 example:

  • OP.2a. I live in a town nearby. <-- OP's #2 example

it-clefts:

  • OP.2b. It is [in a town nearby] that I live. <-- PP constituent

  • OP.2c. It is [a town nearby] that I live in. <-- NP constituent

  • OP.2d. * It is [nearby] that I live in a town. <-- ungrammatical.

pseudo-clefts:

  • OP.2e What/Where I live is [in a town nearby]. <-- PP constituent

  • OP.2f What/Where I live in is [a town nearby]. <-- NP constituent

  • OP.2b * What/Where I live in a town is [nearby]. <-- ungrammatical.


ASIDE: Notice that the word "nearby" cannot be replaced by "near" in the OP's #2 example:

  • * I live in a town near. <-- ungrammatical

ASIDE: If the word "nearby" was an adjective in the OP's #2 example, then because it is a postpositive modifier (i.e. post-head modifier), it would sometimes have a slightly different meaning when compared to the attributive use of the word "nearby". (Supposedly, according to some linguists.) That is:

  • OP.1a. I live in a nearby town. <-- OP's #1 example ("ephemeral" or "permanent" property)

  • OP.2a. I live in a town nearby. <-- OP's #2 example ("ephemeral" property only)

This topic is discussed in the textbook SPE, page 392:

(7)

  • a. All navigable rivers are being patrolled.

  • a'. All rivers navigable are being patrolled.

  • b. Every available penny was put into their project.

  • b'. Every penny available was put into their project.

This, however, does not mean that we can simply make our eventual rule for the division of labor between prenominal and postnominal modifiers optional in the case of "simple" A's. As Bolinger (1967a) pointed out, when both word orders are possible (thus, excluding examples as in (3)), they differ in the meanings that they can express: postnominal modifiers can only express "ephemeral" properties, as in (7a'), which refers to those rivers that happen at the moment to allow navigation (thus, perhaps excluding some rivers that normally allow navigation but at present are blocked by ice, and including some rivers that normally do not accommodate ships but happen to be usable at the moment by ships because of an abnormally high water level), (fn 8) while prenominal modifiers can express not only ephemeral but also "permanent" properties, as in (7a), which can refer to the rivers that normally allow navigation.

Accordingly, simple A's that refer to permanent properties are restricted to prenominal positions:

(8)

  • a. an even number

  • b. a very tall man

  • a'. * a number even <-- (ungrammatical)

  • b'. * a man very tall <-- (ungrammatical)


Example #3:

Clefts can be used to try to show that the expression "nearby" is a constituent in #3.a.

  • 3.a. A house was [nearby]. <-- first main clause in the original #3

  • 3.b. It was nearby [that a house was]. <-- it-cleft (ungrammatical?)

  • 3.c. [What/Where a house was] was nearby. <-- pseudo-cleft (dubious?)

  • 3.d. Nearby was [what a house was]. <-- reversed pseudo-cleft (ungrammatical?)

This section doesn't seem to be of much use in trying to determine the category of the word "nearby".

Prepositions and adverbs and adjectives can often, or sometimes, be foregrounded by an it-cleft:

  • It's [downstairs] they want to play. <-- preposition

  • It isn't [often] they're as late as this. <-- adverb

  • It wasn't [green] I told you to paint it. <-- adjective

The above three examples were borrowed from CGEL pages 1418-9.

Note: The textbook SPE might have some related info as to the difficulty that is seen in this section (w.r.t. example #3) on pages 64-5.


MORE SYNTAX::

There are prepositions that function as attributive modifier or as postpositive modifier.

For attributive modifiers, there's CGEL page 444:

A few prepositions are also found (as attributive modifiers), as in the [downstairs] toilet.

For post-head modifiers, there's CGEL page 446:

(d) PPs

[14]

  • i. . . .

  • ii. the temperature [outside], the floor [below], the year [before]

  • iii. . . .

A very great range of PPs can function as post-head modifier. Those in [i ] illustrate the most frequent pattern, with the preposition having an NP as complement. In the last example, with as, the oblique NP is interpreted predicatively: Jill was a journalist. We also find prepositions without complements, generally locative or temporal, as in [ii ]; and in [iii ] the prepositions have clauses as complement.


Also, there is CGEL, page 683:

Realisation

Most location dependents have the form of a PP. A sample of prepositions (and prepositional idioms) heading such phrases is given in:

[16]

  • i. abroad downhill downstairs here hereabouts home indoors nearby overseas there where

  • ii. . . .

  • iii. . . .

The items in [i ] occur without complements in the PP: He lives abroad; Nearby, some children were playing cricket.

The above excerpt shows CGEL's opinion on the preposition "nearby".

But I tend to differ with them on this point: the point is that I also think the preposition "nearby" can also occur with complements. For instance: We checked into a hotel [nearby the station]; He went fishing in the creek [nearby the grocery store].

There is also the supporting evidence of "nearby" as a PP with complement in the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED), 2015, in their entry on "nearby" as a preposition. A related excerpt from that OED is provided elsewhere in this thread via a deleted post and someone else's answer post.


NOTE: The word "nearby" could probably be seen as being a type of compound preposition, where it's seen as being related to a combination of the two prepositions "near" and "by". This is similar to some other prepositions, such as: "onto" with "on" and "to", "into" with "in" and "to", "upon" with "up" and "on".


REFERENCES::


CGEL: The 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum (et al.), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Some of the related pages are:

  • pages 331 [10], 455 [17-8]
  • pages 444-7 [9, 11-5]
  • pages 624-6 [20-2]
  • pages 683 [16]
  • pages 1418-9 [11-7], 1421-2 [22-9]

SPE: This is a textbook by James D. McCawley, The Syntactic Phenomena of English, 2nd edition, paperback 1998. Some of the related pages are:

  • pages 392 #7
  • pages 64-7 #20-9
  • 1
    +1 Long weekend, so was going to have a go at fixing my post according to you recs, but now I don't have to! Nice post!! – Araucaria Apr 3 '15 at 14:07
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    For more evidence, there's the adjectives like "asleep" and "awake" and their ilk (CGEL page 559 [17]). These are adjectives that have historically come from PPs; and today these adjectives usually don't function attributively (they often function predicatively or postpositively). Their difficulty in being used attributively could be due to their being historically coming from full PPs. (cont.) – F.E. Apr 5 '15 at 18:15
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    (cont.) Note that "The boy is [asleep]" is similar in meaning to "The boy is [in the state of sleep]", and so, the adjective relationship asleep(boy) corresponds to the PP relationship in(boy,the-state-of-sleep). In other words, the adjective "asleep" is short for the adjective "in-the-state-of-sleep". That is, one of the PP's arguments is now part of the adjective word, and that is why it is possible for the equivalent adjective to have only one argument (which is the PP's 2nd arg). – F.E. Apr 5 '15 at 18:15
3
  1. I live in a nearby town.

  2. I love in a town nearby.

In my grammar nearby is an adjective in (1) and a preposition in (2). With prepositions like nearby we are usually thinking about a relation between two things or places. With the preposition nearby one of these things is often here, this place. So in sentence (2), nearby means nearby to here. However, with the preposition nearby we can sometime use a different place to orient ourselves, not here. So the following sentence is perfectly fine:

  • Nearby the station, there's a greengrocer's.

Notice however that we cannot do this with the adjective:

  • I live in a nearby the motorway town.

Semantically, the adjective nearby always relates a thing or action to here, or a place we are already thinking about. To make the sentence above grammatical we would have to say:

  • I live in a town near(by) the motorway.

Some speakers don't like to use nearby with a following noun when the prepositional phrase modifies another noun. These speakers would prefer to use near in this situation.

The other big difference between the adjective nearby and the preposition nearby is that we can modify the preposition nearby with the special adverb right. We cannot use right with the adjective.

  • *I live in a right nearby town. (ungrammatical)
  • I live in a town right nearby.

To sum up

The difference between nearby the adjective and nearby the preposition is mainly about grammar. There is one semantic difference though. We can use the preposition nearby to talk about something being close to another place or thing. The adjective nearby always talks about something being close to here or another place that we are already thinking about.

  • 1
    @F.E. Hmm, actually I've always taken it as read that phrases like outdoor swimming pool have outdoor as an adjective, but now I'm wondering if nearby is just an unusual preposition that can pre-modify nouns within a nominal? What do you think – Araucaria Mar 25 '15 at 0:15
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    @nima Well, as far as I can see you ask about the semantic difference between the two - and there's only one small semantic difference, which is the one I outline in the post and in the conclusion. Is there anything else you wanted to know? – Araucaria Mar 25 '15 at 0:32
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    First off , thanks for your invaluable concerns as to problems. However, my most problem is about discerning between being an adjective or an adverb, as well as being a preposition- not comparing them just as an adjective or preposition. – nima Mar 27 '15 at 12:17
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    @Nima, In modern grammars such as The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language or Oxford Modern English grammar or A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, the word nearby is never an adverb - ever. It doesn't have any syntactic properties of adverbs, and has all the syntactic properties of prepositions. Research over the last fifty years has shown that there is no justification for calling prepositions prepositions when they come before a noun and calling them adverbs when there is no following noun ... – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 14:23
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    @nima When this word comes directly before a noun in a noun phrase, there is some justification for calling it an adjective. [However, CaGEL would say it is a preposition functioning as a modifier in a noun clause in such examples]. In old fashioned grammar, some people will call it an adverb when there is no following noun phrase, but when they do this it just means that they cannot predict anything about the grammar of this words any more ... – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 14:26
3

Answer to OP -

  1. Would you show me if there could be any potential difference semantically between the two?

a) I live in a nearby town.

b) I live in a town nearby.

No there is no semantic difference between the two. Both of them mean the same thing, and grammatically correct sentence.

  1. Nearby - an adjective, an adverb or a preposition?

All major dictionaries say that nearby can be used both as an adverb as well as an adjective. We can also use nearby as a preposition.

Now examine your sentence whether nearby is an adjective or an adverb or a preposition -

c) I sometimes meet friends in a nearby restaurant.

There is no doubt that nearby here modifies the following noun - restaurant. And so it's an adjective here. The adjective nearby is an attributive adjective. We can't use the adjective nearby predicatively.

d) I sometimes meet friends in a restaurant nearby.

Here nearby is an adverb.

Let's expand the elliptical structure that is hidden in sentence #d

e) I sometimes meet friends in a restaurant (which is) nearby.

See here what nearby modifies? It modifies is. In a restaurant which is where? In a restaurant which is Nearby - an adverb.

Another way to explain nearby in that sentence

e) I sometimes meet friends in a restaurant (which is) nearby.

Here we can also say nearby is a preposition.

Consider this -

A church stands at (the bank of the river).

Here in that sentence preposition at indicates the position of the church. The complement of the preposition at is the bank of the river. In your sentence #e, the preposition nearby is also indicating position. Where does the restaurant exist? A short distance from here - nearby.

e) I sometimes meet friends in a restaurant (which exist) nearby (here).

After preposition nearby we don't need any complement, so in the original sentence here is omitted.

Other example sentences which OP quoted in his question can be analyzed in a similar way. I am sure he can do it after reading my answer. If not I will analyze it myself.


Confusion about whether to use "nearby" as a single word or to break it into two, and whether it can be used as a preposition -

Whether it should be written as a single word or two separate words is not very clear. I think we have a license to write it either way according to wish/style/preference etc.

But Fowler in Modern English Usage does say something about it. But I don't think it's widely accepted, as some dictionaries doesn't say anything along that line -

As an adjective, it should be written as one word (a nearby hotel), but as an adverb normally as two (at a hospital nearby).

From Wiktionary -

Some British writers make the distinction between the adverbial near by, which is written as two words; and the adjectival nearby, which is written as one. In American English, the one-word spelling is standard for both forms.

Why I think dictionaries allow both usage is because they list both single word version as well as two word version against that entry (nearby). And in example sentences they haven't used two separate words as suggested by Fowler.

From Collins Cobuild Dictionary -

enter image description here

From OED (Oxford English Dictionary -

enter image description here

As for whether "nearby" can be used as a preposition : -

Though most of the dictionaries, online and offline, don't list nearby as a preposition, modern grammar books like CGEL and dictionaries like OED consider nearby as a preposition. I think this a new addition.

enter image description here

Link to the screenshot if you need zooming.

Ref: "nearby, adv., prep., and adj." OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 28 March 2015.

Notice how the usage of nearby evolves -

enter image description here

Source

The user states that nearby as a preposition is rare or dialectical. See the time when he made the claim. It's 2014. He referred to OED. And he found this at that time -

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Not only did OED said it's rare or dialectical, Editors of MW dictionaries made similar claim. He went as far as saying that nearby as a preposition is impossible. Link

English Grammar Today from Cambridge made similar claim.

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But nobody made any objection to that compound preposition when formed by taking two prepositions - near and by - together.

There is a house, near by the station, which is rumored to be haunted.

I live near by that fancy building.

These near by as shown in the example sentences above are just compound preposition. Similar compound preposition is from behind as in The sun rose from behind the cloud.

In early days (approximately till 1800) it was evident that nearby was widespread as a preposition, then that usage became rare. And whenever usage like He lived near by the railway station appeared, it was frowned upon, and was explained that it is the case of compound preposition -near by.

But usage changed again, and OED and other modern grammarians started to consider nearby as a preposition all over again. This is very recent.

Now it's time to draw the conclusion. So far till I came to know about the up-to-date OED's no objection about using nearby as a preposition, I was strictly against using it as a preposition, though even then I didn't mind using near and by together to form a compound preposition. Now that we have the info that nearby can be used as a preposition, I think there shouldn't be any problem using it that way. But still some people might find that usage not so good. For a learner, it's better to avoid such aspects of language. You write something that don't cause any problem to any audience. Even in journalism or in literature, the best practice is to avoid such areas of language which is accepted by some people and not by others. Here, as both are correct, the choice is yours. As far as explaining something is concerned, there might be more than one way. You pick up any one of them as long as they are correct which suites you best. You are also welcome to take them all :-)

  • "c) I sometimes meet friends in a nearby restaurant. There is no doubt that nearby here modifies the following noun - restaurant. And so it's an adjective here. The adjective nearby is an attributive adjective. We can't use nearby predicatively." <== Unfortunately, all you have proved in that example is that "nearby" is functioning as an attributive modifier in NP structure. It is true that many adjectives can and do realize that function, but so do other categories. Also, there are many adjectives that cannot be used predicatively; and there are many that can only be used predicatively. – F.E. Mar 28 '15 at 8:22
  • @F.E. So here comes another issue :-) another trouble maker :-( attributive modifier:-) Now I don't know how to distinguish an adjective from an attributive modifier. But I can provide evidence that say adjective nearby is not generally used predicatively. – Man_From_India Mar 28 '15 at 8:26
  • @F.E. wait wait. I doubt if it's ever called an attributive modifier. Though I don't have much knowledge about attributive modifier. All I knew is if a noun in NP acts as an adjective it is considered as an attributive modifier. If you can give some idea how it's being considered as an attributive modifier it would be nice :-) Anyway I wanted to show you the one word/double word issue and prepositional issue. All the evidence based on which I claimed. – Man_From_India Mar 28 '15 at 8:33
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    Hi Man_From_India, there's a problem with the OED quote you give. Namely, that it's not from the OED! The OED actually cites nearby as a preposition. It gives modern examples, and says nothing about it being dialectical at all :( I don't know where the information above came from?? EDIT: Maybe you've been swizzed by another post which deliberately took an out of date citation from an old version of the OED? – Araucaria Mar 28 '15 at 11:20
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    @F.E. I agree ;-) and no argument with a tiger ;-) :D and thanks for the info on test. – Man_From_India Mar 31 '15 at 12:28
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Cambridge's English Grammar Today defines the word 'nearby'.

Nearby is an adverb or an adjective meaning ‘not far away’

I cannot think of one single example where I can use 'nearby' as a preposition.

In all your given examples (or in any example you can think of), it is quite clear whether the word 'nearby' is used as an adverb or adjective. How?

As a very general rule, 'nearby' as an adjective is followed by a noun. Check all the examples you gave. Said that 1, a, and d uses 'nearby' as an adjective and in rest all, it's an adverb.

So, to help you, when you see nearby + noun, it's adjective. Or else, it serves as an adverb in most of the cases, if not all!

About preposition, I think 'near' is way more common as compared to 'nearby'.

Learner's Dictionary:

Near and nearby are both synonyms for close. However, there are three clear and important differences in their meaning and use:

1) The first difference is that near is often used as a preposition, but nearby can never be properly used as a preposition. Furthermore, when near is a preposition, it doesn’t simply mean close, it means close to, as shown in this example:

I left the box near the door. [near means close to (the door)]
I left the box nearby the door. [You may hear someone say this occasionally, but it is not considered correct.]

2) The second difference is that near can mean close in time (=soon), as well as close in distance, but nearby cannot, as shown below:

Summer is drawing near. [near=close in time]
May is nearby. [nearby cannot mean close in time]

3) The third difference is that nearby can appear either before or after a noun that it describes, but near can normally appear only before the noun, and even then, only when referring to time.* Here are some examples:

We slept at a nearby motel. [nearby + noun]
We slept at a motel nearby. [noun + nearby]

I hope to visit you in the near future. [near + noun, and near=close in time]
I hope to visit you in your near home. [near cannot be used before a noun to refer to distance]

There is one exception to this near + noun restriction:

It’s perfectly acceptable to use near + noun when referring to distance in a sentence that contrasts near with far, as in this example:

The near side of the garage needs a paint job, but the far side looks okay.

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    So in the phrase nearby the station, there is a ... what does your grammar tell you that nearby is? An adjective, and adverb? Some examples from published books: "Her voice was frantic, high pitched, and spoke of the facts of a possible double murder nearby the station", "There is a commercial district nearby the station", " We checked into a hotel nearby the station". So, do you reckon this is an adverb? – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 14:18
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    @nima - it's never an adverb! EVER! (Use a modern grammar book, not a dictionary!) – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 14:27
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    @Man_From_India But it is a well know fact about adverbs that they cannot pre-modify nouns ( eg, "a beautifully woman", "a locally man"). And it's a well-known fact about preposition phrases that they can function as adjuncts (read adverbials). For example, "After the concert, we ...,"; "In 1984, we ...", "In spite of the rain, we ..." etc. Perhaps it would be easier to understand my position if you read this post here about dicitonaries!. – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 15:57
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    And also nearby the station is an adverbial as a whole. But nearby in that phrase is an adjective. I was wrong in treating it as an adverb. But I did made some search. nearby as a preposition is now rare or dialectical. Far from modern usage. In fact English Grammar Today recommends not to use nearby as a preposition. Instead use near. – Man_From_India Mar 27 '15 at 16:07
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    @Man_From_India In "nearby the station" nearby is a preposition. Arguably, in "the nearby station" it's an adjective. I recommend not using English Grammar Today ;) – Araucaria Mar 27 '15 at 16:14

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