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

Section: 

Comments

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

Hello Malinali,

Could you please make your question more specific? We're happy to help but we ask that you ask specific questions.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sure, in the lesson you said "we normally put adverbials after the verb" and in the sentence "the minister angrily refused..." the adverb 'angrily' goes before the verb 'refused'. Why is this correct?

Thank you and regards

Hello Malinali,

I'm afraid I don't see the sentence you refer to on this page, so it's difficult for me to say, especially without knowing the context. In any case, the position of adverbs is a fairly complex affair, as they can be used in many different positions depending on the other elements in a the sentence, what kind of adverb they are and the speaker's intentions. If you'd like to learn more about this, there's a good introduction on this Cambridge Dictionary page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, the sentence I was referring to is in the lesson Adverbials - Where they go in a sentence - Task 1 - Sentence 5

Thank you so much for your help!
Regards

Hello Malinali,

Ok! Sorry about that -- I missed the sentence in the exercise. In this case, it must be that the speaker is trying to put emphasis on the adverb. This is not very clear from the exercise, but given the explanation above, that must be the case.

In any case, I'd suggest watching how adverbs are placed as you read in English. Although slow and sometimes not easy, this is probably the best way to learn how to use adverbs.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk
I will practice, thanks for your help and time!

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