Appendix:English nouns with restricted non-referential interpretation in bare noun phrases
Certain English nouns can be used as head of noun phrases anarthrously, ie, without a determiner or article, in a use which can give them a distinct meaning.
Nouns that indicate a role can optionally appear without determiner or article as object of certain prepositions following nouns like role, part, position and as complement of certain verbs (eg, be, become, appoint, elect); but not as subjects or objects. The same nouns can also appear with determiner or article with the same meaning.
- He played the part of tough guy in the negotiation.
- *Tough guy was involved in the negotiation.
- He became Underassistant West Coast Promo Man for the record company.
- *The record company fired Underassistant West Coast Promo Man.
- She served as president for two terms.
- *President served for two terms.
Certain everyday frames
Certain activity-locations, indications of status, means of transport, media of communication, meals, times, and repeated and matched nouns cannot accept determiners in certain uses. The meaning of some of the words is subtly different from its meaning when it can be used with an article or determiner. In other cases, the word appears in a fixed expression, often with idiomatic meaning.
Prepositional phrases provide a way of searching for such usages. The variety of prepositions is large:
- temporal: before, during, after, at, by, until
- spatial: in, into, on, to, from, out of, up, down, at
- status: in, on, off, under, at
This is a realm that seems to productively generate prepositional phrases that are idioms and near-idioms. The most clearcut cases are those where only one prepositional phrase contains a sense of the noun that does not appear to occur as bare noun in any other prepositional phrase, let alone as subject, object or predicate. A somewhat weaker case exists for senses that occur with a small number of prepositions. In addition, there seem to be cases where a novel metaphorical or purely idiomatic interpretation has arisen that does not fall within the other classes discussed below.
- hospital (UK usage): in hospital
- school: to school, from school, in school, into school, out of school
- stage: off stage, on stage, up stage, down stage
- bed: to bed, from bed, into bed, out of bed, in bed
- town: to town, from town, in town, into town, out of town
- work: to work, from work, at work, after work, during work, before work
- church: to church, at church, from church, into church, out of church, in church
- prayer, prayers, vespers, mass, communion, service, chapel, synagogue
Not all of these are true status indicators. The prepositional phrases may not be uses of a status-indicator sense of the word.
- air: on air (PP), off air
- arrest: under arrest (PP)
- bankruptcy: in bankruptcy
- base: on base (PP), off base (PP)
- call: on call (PP)
- Chapter XI:
- check: in check (PP)
- condition: in condition (PP), out of condition (PP), into condition, on condition (PP)
- duty: on duty (PP), off duty (PP), from duty, for duty, to duty
- file (storage): in file, on file (PP) new MW, out of file
- file (line): in file, out of file
- foreclosure: in foreclosure
- hiatus: in hiatus
- hock#Etymology 3: in hock, out of hock, on hock
- hold: on hold
- indictment: under indictment
- inventory: in inventory, from inventory, into inventory
- line: on line (PP), off line, out of line (PP)
- notice: on notice
- offer: on offer (PP) UK
- office: in office (PP), out of office
- order: (different senses) in order (PP), out of order, on order
- pause: on pause
- parole: on parole, off parole
- place: in place, into place, out of place
- post: on post, off post
- power: in power (PP), out of power, from power, into power
- quarantine: in quarantine
- record: on record (PP) MW
- report: on report (PP) new MW
- review: under review
- sale: on sale (PP) US
- sentence?: under sentence?
- service: in service, out of service, into service, from service
- shape: in shape, out of shape, into shape
- speaker: on speaker
- station: on station, off station
- standby: on standby
- stereo: in stereo
- stock: in stock, out of stock, from stock, into stock
- season: in season, out of season
- session: in session, out of session, into session
- target: off target (PP), on target (PP)
- transit: in transit
- time: on time, in time (PP)
- trial: on trial
- trouble: in trouble (PP), into trouble, out of trouble
- waiting?: in waiting?
- Many words can be used as indicating a kind of status in some contexts. The US military provides many examples: in country; with leave/without leave; on station. Law also provides them, as well as sports.
- dawn, daybreak, sunrise: before/at/after/until dawn/daybreak/sunrise
- midday, noon: before/at/after/until midday/noon
- school, class: before/during/after school/class
- session: in session, before session, after session
- recess: in recess
- bed: before bed, until bed
- work: before work, during work, after work, until work
- with by
- boat, sail, steam, steamer, freighter, tanker, ship, raft, bus, car, truck, van, rail, trolley, streetcar, bicycle, unicycle, plane, rocket, submarine, dirigible, helicopter, glider, balloon, sled, sleigh, ambulance, taxi, jet, prop, turboprop,sedan, station wagon, cart, pallet, trailer, conveyor belt, road, tightrope, zipline, horse, mule, camel.
- with on
- with around
- the bush
- with at
- with beside
- the point
- with by
- mail, radio, email, telephone, telegraph, telegram, letter, voice, writing, note, smoke signal, semaphore, messenger, courier, pigeon,
- with in
- with via
- with a dummy pronoun, and related expressions
True idioms and metaphorical use
- on air (“happily, gracefully”)