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This sentence:

Verify that the table includes the configured values manually.

Is it the same as saying:

Manually verify that the table includes the configured values.

or the same as:

Verify, manually, that the table includes the configured values.

Somehow it feels odd to put the word "manually" last since it then sounds like you are talking about the configured values and not about the verb "verify".

Do all three sentences mean exactly the same thing? Which grammar rules allow "manually" to be placed at the end of the sentence?

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What is the difference between "Manually verify ..." and "Verify, manually, ..."? Don't all three sentences mean the same thing? –  Peter Shor Mar 7 '13 at 11:51
    
@Peter: Yes, they all mean the same thing, but the third one is harder to read & understand the first time, & the second one has unnecessarily made manually a parenthetical remark when it shouldn't be parenthetical. –  user21497 Mar 7 '13 at 11:57
    
possible duplicate of Where should adverbs be placed? –  jwpat7 Mar 7 '13 at 14:32

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

English is a word-order language. That means, among other things, that it's necessary to place modifiers as close as possible to the word or phrase they modify.

In the example sentences in your question, the placement of manually is important not as much for meaning as for clarity and ease of understanding.

What you want the sentence to mean -- that the verification should be manual -- is clear and instantly understood if the sentence reads

Manually verify that the table includes the configured values.

or

Verify manually that the table includes the configured values. (It's not necessary to put commas around manually in this case.)

As you correctly point out, if manually comes at the end, the meaning may be ambiguous:

Verify that the table includes the configured values manually.

In this case, however, all this misplaced adverb does is cause the reader to stop and have to think about what is being said. That's not good writing and it's annoying to the reader.

For manually to modify configured values, it would have to come immediately before configured.

Two other ways of writing the sentence are to use the adverb manually as a sentence modifier rather than merely a verb modifier:

Manually, verify that the table includes the configured values.

or

Verify that the table includes the configured values, manually.

Both are idiomatic and grammatical and semantically the same. And unless the context calls for one of them (because of the style and structure of other similar sentences), neither is optimal:

Manually verify that the table includes the configured values.

seems to me to be the best choice.

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Thank you for a clear answer. –  Mazen Harake Mar 7 '13 at 11:59
    
@Mazen Harake: You're welcome. My goal for everything I write & revise (I'm and editor) is to be as clear as possible. I don't always succeed, of course. Sometimes clarity takes more words than others like to read, so sometimes it seems verbose. –  user21497 Mar 7 '13 at 12:05

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