When I read about the two famous grammar books - The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, I happened to across a very interesting sentence below.

What are you doing in there? (source)

The questioner wanted to know what part of speech is there,adverb or noun? Which is it?

  • 2
    Before you get too bogged down in adverbs, I recommend this question on ELU. As McCawley says, it's a 'wastebasket' category - where you put everything that doesn't fit anywhere else. Commented Jun 9, 2013 at 14:22
  • @StoneyB, Thank you. When I first heard the category from prof. Lawler, it was very strange. Now I get some understanding.
    – Listenever
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 0:35
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    @Listenever "Adverb" was a wastebasket category in traditional grammar. In modern grammar "adverb" is usually better defined, with "particle" taking over the wastebasket role.
    – user230
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 5:46

2 Answers 2


There in that sentence is adverb. It can be an exclamation as in "There, there, you must take all of this philosophically." but it is never a noun.

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    I might be convinced if the question were about "there" in "What are you doing there?". But isn't the question about "What are you doing in there?" Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 15:02

The sentence ”What are you doing in there?” includes a preposition in. All prepositions have an object, which must be a noun. If in is a preposition, then there must be the object and a noun.

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    I agree with you that that "in" is a preposition, though I would rather say that that "there" is a pronoun rather than a noun. Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 15:03

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