Adverb Placement Edition!
California Teacher Guy has another grammar question (thanks, CTG – I LOVE GW suggestions!!); though, because my computer has mysteriously eaten the email he sent containing the request – again – I can’t quote the query for you. Grrr. Paraphrasing, then, CTG wants to know whether it matters where one puts the adverb in a sentence like:
“We usually go to the movies on Sunday afternoons.”
My short answer is, “it depends on the adverb.”
Grammatically, we can say (or write) this particular sentence four different ways. We can put the adverb usually where I put it above – that is, after the subject (we) and before the verb (go). We can also set the adverb at either the beginning or end of the sentence, thus:
Usually, we go to the movies…
…to the movies on Sunday afternoons, usually.
Further, we can put the adverb in the smack center of the sentence, like so:
We go to the movies, usually, on Sunday afternoons.
Grammatically, this last sentence is still correct, though I find it a bit awkward to actually speak.
Really, all we’re doing by moving the adverb in this sentence is changing the emphasis: the sentences all mean essentially the same thing – that it is a common occurrence for us to go to the movies on Sunday afternoons – but the flavor of the sentence is changed a bit when the adverb is moved (at least, to my understanding, anyway - you may not perceive a difference at all).
Let’s look at a different adverb now. Take this example from my Elements of Grammar:
He only nominated Jones for president.
andHe nominated only Jones for president.
In the first sentence, he nominated Jones, but he didn’t actually vote for him; the nominating was the only thing that happened. In the second sentence, he didn’t nominate anyone else BUT Jones for president. Get it?
Finally, I promised to go over then/than today. Here we go:
THEN is an adverb used to denote time or sequence:
First, I gave a lesson in adverb placement, then I cleared up two commonly confused words.
I bought gas there last week, but I paid 5 cents more for it then.
Look at the recipe first, then see if you have all the ingredients you need.
THAN is a conjunction used to introduce a subordinate clause, usually expressing comparison, choice, or preference:
You will find no better town than this one.
I would rather die than marry that lout.
She is far taller than I.
Happy Wednesday, everyone! Keep those grammar questions coming!