Where do adverbials go in a sentence?

We normally put adverbials after the verb:

He spoke angrily.
They live just here.
We will go in a few minutes.

or after the object or complement:

He opened the door quietly.
She left the money on the table.
We saw our friends last night.
You are looking tired tonight.

But adverbials of frequency (how often) usually come in front of the main verb:

We usually spent our holidays with our grandparents.
I have never seen William at work.

But if we want to emphasise an adverbial we can put it at the beginning of a clause:

Last night we saw our friends.
In a few minutes we will go.
Very quietly he opened the door.

If we want to emphasise an adverb of manner we can put it in front of the main verb:

He quietly opened the door.
She had carefully put the glass on the shelf.

Try these tasks to practice your use of placement of adverbials.

Task 1

Exercise

Task 2

Exercise

Comments

Hi there,
In task one there is a sentence, "I don’t USUALLY watch football on TV,.. ". I did it wrong because I thought 'Usually' should come before don't i.e "I usually don't watch football on TV.. " is this correct too? and if it is, then is there some different between the two or they mean same?
Regards

Hi SajadKhan,

Adverbs of frequency (like 'usually') usually go in front of the main verb. In the sentence you ask about, 'watch' is the main verb and 'don't' is the auxiliary verb, which is why the correct answer is what it is. That said, your version of the sentence is not exactly wrong; it's just not the standard location for the adverb. There is no difference in meaning between the two, though sometimes putting the adverb at the beginning of the sentence gives it more emphasis -- though in such a case it is usually the first word.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I suppose what you have explained here are the ground rules
we put the adverbials "after the object or complement" (the second instance in the text above) :

He opened the door quietly.
Following the rule, you have placed 'quietly' in the end.

If this is the case then do you think the following sentence is correct?

"He said goodnight to her and quietly shut the bedroom door."
In this particular sentence, 'quietly' has been placed before the object. Please help.

As a matter of fact, I am always confused when it comes to using a preposition at a proper place.

If you see, I have written a sentence within the bracket and have placed 'above' in the end. Is this correct?

Hello mou,

The position of adverbs in the sentence is quite flexible. For example, all of these sentence are correct:

He opened the door quietly.

He quietly opened the door.

Quietly, he opened the door.

In certain contexts (such as literary works) other positions may even be possible, though unusual. However, certain positions are more common than others and so we indicate these on the page (normally, usually, we can...).

The preposition 'above' in your sentence is correct. It comes after 'text' because it describes the position of the text. There is an implied object after the preposition: ...the text above this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
In Mr. Peter M replied on 12 February, 2018, he said :You can use 'only' in several ways :
You should only speak to him.

You only should speak to him.

You should speak to him only / to only him.

So why is this sentence just only said that

You should only take the red pills, not the blue ones.

not

You only should take the red pills, not the blue ones.

Why is that? Please explain it to me. Thanks

Hi XuMinHa,

The normal word order - the natural word order in almost all contexts - is with the adverb 'only' before the main verb:

You should only take the red pills, not the blue ones.

 

Other positions are possible, but they are unusual and require a particular contexts or intentions. Unless this is somehow indicated then the 'standard' word order should be used. In other words, we use the word order above unless we need to emphasise a particular meaning.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,

"I think that you also should quit smoking."
"We only have a very small garden."
You only have to look at the statistics to see that things are getting worse.

But most of the grammar books say that "also, only etc" words should come after the modal or auxiliary verbs. Actually, is it a fixed rule?. If so are these sentences wrong?.

Please explain the right syntax and usage.

Hi pumbi,

It is correct that adverbs such as 'also', 'only', 'just' and so on generally come after modal verbs:

You should only take the red pills, not the blue ones.

not

You only should take the red pills, not the blue ones.

 

However, your examples do not fit your rule. Your second example uses 'have' as a main verb and so the adverb is in the correct place. If you use 'have got' then the position changes:

We only have a very small garden.

We have only got a very small garden.

 

In your third example you use the verb 'have to', which is not considered a modal (it is sometimes called a 'semi-modal'). Unlike modal verbs it is followed by an infinitive with 'to' and uses auxiliaries to form negatives and questions rather than simply adding 'not' or inverting the word order.

 

Further, the rule you quote is not fixed. The position of the adverb is quite flexible and depends on the meaning we intend. You can use 'only' in several ways:

You should only speak to him. [do no more than speak]

You only should speak to him. [no-one else should do this]

You should speak to him only / to only him. [not to anyone else]

 

We can see similar options in your first example:

I also think that you should quit smoking. [I share this opinion]

I think that you also should quit smoking. [someone has quit and so should you]

I think that you should also quit smoking. [you have done something and you should quit smoking as well as this]

 

It is a complex area. I hope these comments help to clarify it for you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
In the sentence "the minister angrily refused to answer any more of the journalists' questions''. Why is correct? In the lesson you said

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