Saturday, December 17, 2005

Here Am I

On Wikipedia, someone asked on the language reference desk about the difference among "I am here," "Here I am," and "Here am I." Other people had input; I added the following.

I usually see "here am I" in a more poetic or philosophical sense rather than in a physical sense; "here am I, pondering the vagaries of the English language once again." It puts more of an emphasis on the "I" part. Here's part of a favorite poem:
Shadows creep up the mountain,
Mountain goes black on the sky,
The sky bursts out with a million stars
And here, by the campfire,
Am I.

(Kathryn and Byron Jackson)

I'm thinking about this even more and actually the first two phrases can have different emphasis depending on the situation:
  • "No one showed up for this meeting!" "Hey, *I*'m here."
  • "You're daydreaming again instead of being mentally here with me!" "No, I *am* here."
  • "Where are you exactly?" "I am *here*."
  • "I give up, I can't find you!" "*Here* I am!"
  • (Upon entering a party, late, where you're expected:) "Here I *am*."
  • "We were all supposed to meet here at 2:00, well, here *I* am."

(So, in looking at those examples, you can see that ... putting "I" first places more importance on the person (note that importance isn't necessarily emphasis) but "here" first puts more importance on the location.) But I can't think of any more than one general usage for "here am I", which is the metaphysical or philosophical sense of one's existence as I mentioned earlier, or a poetic variation on "here I am".

(In response to question as to whether "here" is a preposition in these sentences:) Actually here is an adverb in most standard uses (as is there). Prepositions usually have an object (not sure that's the right term), explicit or implicit, as in "over the fire", "through the tunnel". Here is describing the ''am''.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing to discover that there are people who achieve such a domain of a language, and plus, who make themselves available to share their knowledge in such a generous way! Congratulations, Mr. Elf!

Elf said...

Thanks! And thanks to the Wikipedians, too.

Akca said...

hi there.I am very interested in your blog .You help me to solve my problems .Thanks a lot.I look forward to reading ur new posts :)

PS.I am a student from HK and i want to improve my English

Elf said...

Thanks for your note. I don't post very often, although I always intend to post more. Please do ask if you have any questions that you'd like answered.