I know what "the bullet whizzed past" means, but I'm not sure about its grammar or syntax, that is, what kind of element in the sentence 'past' is.

Is it the abbreviation of the full sentence, the bullet whizzed, being past?

  • I guess it's debatable (again!) whether it's an adverb or a preposition. I think, it's traditionally an adverb. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 12:24
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    The object is implied in this sentence. The bullet whizzed past something that is not mentioned. Past in this context relates to position, not time... Here are two example sentences. "The bullet whizzed past my ear, making me swallow my tonsils." or "The bullet whizzed past the window, but hit the door next to it."
    – Msfolly
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 12:27
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    @DamkerngT. Hhmmm. The fact it's a Locative Complement shows that it's a preposition. So does the fact that we can modify it by right and straight. So does the fact that it can postmodify nouns. So does the fact that we can't modify it be very. There is no argument that I have ever seen to actually defend the adverb claim - apart from "prepositions must come before a noun. Of course, this just begs the question. Oh there's one other argument "My dictionary says it is an adverb". Its a preposition!!! :-) Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:27

2 Answers 2


The verb WHIZZ takes Locative Complements (as opposed to Objects and so forth). These are nearly always preposition phrases. The word past here is a preposition phrase functioning as a Locative Complement. If we try to use WHIZZ without a Locative Complement, it will sound strange and ungrammatical:

  • *The bullet whizzed. (ungrammatical)

Here is WHIZZ with some different Locative Complements:

  • The car whizzed along the road.
  • The day whizzed by.
  • A moment later the first arrow whizzed under his chin.

Whiz is onomatopoeic in this usage, it implies sound, proximity and speed.

It's a more emotional way of saying "the bullet flew past [him]".

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