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I'm creating a registration form. I want to display a message if a particular username already exists.

So which sentence is correct?

This username has already been taken by another user. Please pick another username.

or

This username has been taken already by another user. Please pick another username.

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1  
    
Neither one is "incorrect", but I think the first one reads better. –  J.R. Jan 29 '13 at 19:28
    
Since it's clear enough with already placed at the front of the VP containing its focus, that's the simplest one: Please pick another username. This name has already been chosen by another user. –  John Lawler Jul 1 at 18:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Both are, strictly speaking, correct. The placing of already in the sentence simply alters the emphasis:

John is here already.

The sentence above implies that the speaker is surprised that John has arrived so early. Compare it to the sentence below:

John is already here.

In this sentence, the emphasis is on here. It could be taken to indicate that the speaker expected John to be somewhere else.

In general, in English, the last word carries the greatest importance (source):

In written English, emphasis is largely a matter of controlling the way a sentence ends. The last words of English sentences carry the strongest degree of emphasis. When we maneuver into that sentence-final, stressed, emphatic position our most important ideas and information, we underscore the most significant idea through grammar. Even natural, intonational stress can seem weak and anticlimactic if we let a sentence end on lightweight words.

So, in your case, since you are emphasizing taken rather than already, I would go for

This username has already been taken by another user. Please pick another username

or, simply:

This username has already been taken. Please pick another username

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This is a very interesting take on the subject. I'm wondering, though, whether the writer of the very insightful quote means we as writers or we as readers. –  John Lawler Jan 29 '13 at 19:45
    
@JohnLawler I'd say either since the quote simply refers to "written English". I would also extend it to spoken English though. –  terdon Jan 29 '13 at 19:56
    
There is the added complicating factor that the prepositional phrase marking the agent makes the alternative wording very clumsy. “This username has been taken by another user already” is better (keeping the focussed word at the end, instead of in the middle), but still awkward. Even better though: “Sorry, this username is not available. Please try a different username”. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 1 at 15:59
  • if an adverb supports the verb, it will stand after that verb. (he runs fast)
  • if an adverb does not support the verb, it will stand before the verb (he often gets up at 6:00)
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protected by tchrist Mar 4 at 23:59

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