Positioning adverbs

If you read my previous post on adverbs, you’ll know why one feels bad instead of badly, and can move on to part 2 of a discussion of adverbial confusion.

Now that you know what an adverb is and how to use it, the next thing to consider is where to put the adverb in your sentence. Word placement is always important, and the position of an adverb can change the meaning of a sentence.

Positioning adverbs

Put the adverb after the intransitive verbs

An intransitive verb is a verb that takes no object, as opposed to a transitive verb, which has a direct object. Some verbs are always transitive and others are always intransitive, but depending on context, some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. For example, ‘read’ in “I read before bed” is in transitive, but “I like to read biographies the most” it is transitive.

Don’t be afraid to split infinitives

The infinitive is a verb form that usually looks like ‘to [verb]’, but can also be ‘be [verb]’ and ‘do [verb]”. The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) states that split infinitives were roundly disapproved until about 1925, and “adverbs sometimes justifiably separate the to from the principal verb.”

The Chicago Manual would no doubt agree that the split infinitive in “To boldly go where no man has gone before”, in which the phrase “to go” is split by the adverb ‘boldly’, is justified. Somehow, “To go boldly where no man has gone before” just doesn’t sound as compelling or memorable.