Date: [this is an updated old posting, previous to LSEG4 edition]
" ... I am an English instructor at the ... College. A student asked me a question the other day,
and I do not know the answer; perhaps, you do. What part of speech is "20" in the date, 'June 20, 2004'?
It modifies 'June', therefore is it an adjective? It represents a day, so is it a noun? Or do we simply name it a number,
numeral, determiner, etc.?"
From P B - California, USA
A8. Despite its apparent simplicity this question, and its answer, may be
interesting to very many readers.
Now, English grammar works with the following types of grammatical structures:
d. complex sentences
Expressions are very short phrases used to replace one morphologic/syntactic element. Phrases are also used to replace
one morphologic/syntactic element, though, they can be fairly long/complex. Note that a phrase must not contain a predicative verb;
if it does, that phrase becomes a sentence. The point to note is, once a phrase/expression is identified as being one particular
morphologic/syntactic element, then that phrase/expression ceases to exist any more: phrases do not exist in English grammar as
morphologic/syntactic elements per se.
Sentences are the basic/elementary logic grammatical structures (having a perfect/complete meaning), and they are analyzed
using Morphology, and Sentence Syntax. Morphology deals, in principal, with the right "structural form" of the
morphologic elements (or
parts of speech). Sentence Syntax studies the words grouped in syntactic elements, based on "relational interdependent functionality".
Complex Sentence Syntax deals with aggregate/complex grammatical functionality (of "syntactic function" and "morphologic
form"). Complex Sentence Syntax analysis is performed using two grammatical instruments:
1. Analogy to Morphology
2. Analogy to Sentence Syntax
English grammar is a logic science (though utterly abstract) built on hundreds of rules, thousands of exceptions to the rules, and on a sum of specific
grammatical mechanisms. Again, if you want to understand English grammar, the best book possible is Logically Structured English Grammar
Now, the expression, "June 20, 2004", is an adverb of definite or indefinite time, depending on
how we intend to use it within the sentence structure.
I met with Jane on June 20, 2004,
at 1:45 PM sharp.
In example above "I" is the subject; "met" is the predicate; "with Jane" is a prepositional object; "on June
20, 2004" is an adverbial of indefinite time; the expression, "at 1:45 PM sharp" works as adverbial of definite time.
I met with Jane in the morning,
on June 20, 2004.
In example above, "in the morning" is an adverbial of indefinite time; "on June 20, 2004" becomes an adverbial of
When we use an expression, or a phrase, in place of one morphologic/syntactic element, all component words in that
expression/phrase lose their particular
meanings and any (possible) grammatical functionality. "June 20, 2004" is just one adverbial of time, and the words "June",
"20", and "2004" mean absolutely nothing when they are taken individually.
Note the following:
1. Within a syntactic sentence, "June 20, 2004" is an equivalent adverbial of time.
2. Taken alone, just as it is, the expression "June 20, 2004" is
a conventional form used to express a date, and it
has no grammatical functionality--except for being a particular date. The same grammatical evaluation is valid for dates expressed
3. Finally, the component words in expression "June 20, 2004", in either instance above, are never analyzed for
some morphological/syntactical functionality because they do not have any. All words in expression "June 20, 2004" work together towards
building the idea/meaning: a particular moment in time. Further, we can use the idea/meaning either as one adverbial of time in a
syntactic sentence, or as just a date [marked morphologically as an interjection].
We recommend LSEG4 to all readers who want to become familiar with grammatical constructions of type "equivalent