Adverbs: position of adverbs in a sentence

By Mary Morel

We often have difficulty deciding where to put adverbs as many of them can appear in different places depending on what emphasis we want. I came across this example in a grammar guide of how adverbs can go walkabout.

Originally, the book must have been bought in the shop.
The book originally must have been bought in the shop.
The book must originally have been bought in the shop.
The book must have originally been bought in the shop.
The book must have been originally bought in the shop.
The book must have been bought originally in the shop.
The book must have been bought in the shop originally.

Some guidelines for positioning adverbs are listed below.

1. If you have several adverbial modifiers, the basic order is: verb, manner, place, frequency, time and purpose.

He strolls slowly along the promenade every morning at seven o’clock to exercise his dog.

strolls = verb
slowly = manner
along the promenade = place
every morning = frequency
at seven o’clock = time
to exercise his dog = purpose

Sometimes a modifier may shift to the beginning of the sentence and then it is often separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma.

Every morning at seven o’clock, he strolls slowly along the promenade to exercise his dog.

2. As a general rule, shorter adverbial phrases come before longer ones, irrespective of the content.

He jogs after dinner every day of the week.

3. If you have two similar types of adverbial phrases (time, manner, degree etc.), the more specific one comes first.

My father lives comfortably in a little house in the country.

4. Place an adverbial modifier at the beginning of a sentence if you want to emphasise it.

Quietly, so you don’t disturb the baby.

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