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I have a sentence where I think I could use either of these two constructions. They seem very similar in meaning, so I'm not sure which I should prefer. There might be some subtle point of grammar hidden in here, or maybe not, I'm not sure.

The two versions are:

  • This is sometimes also used to mean such and such.
  • This is also sometimes used to mean such and such.

A Google search did not find anything that looks useful.

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Also refers back to a previous assertion, while sometimes refers forward to the next assertion. They can be easily distinguished (or distinguished easily), whatever their order, and pose no ambiguity problems. Hence they're both fine. –  John Lawler Apr 18 '13 at 21:33
    
@John Lawler: I think it's axiomatic that you can't use "also" without it somehow referring back to a "previous assertion". But "sometimes" can also be used that way sometimes. –  FumbleFingers Apr 18 '13 at 21:41
    
@JohnLawler: Thanks for the reply. If I understand you correctly, you are saying this is a case where the order does not matter? –  Faheem Mitha Apr 18 '13 at 21:44
    
That's right. They don't really interact. As for sometimes, yes it can be used that way, sometimes. But this is not one of them; it could only refer back if it didn't bind the next constituent. But it does, and the decision tree never gets beyond that. –  John Lawler Apr 18 '13 at 22:01
    
@JohnLawler Thanks for the explanation. –  Faheem Mitha Apr 19 '13 at 7:56
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2 Answers

Both sentence mean the same thing anyway.

In the first sentence 'also used' is stressed. and in the second sentence 'also' is stressed.

Both with reference to 'sometimes'.

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Sometimes it's also best to cut out the "wishy-washy" language that he or she may use. "Used also to mean such and such" is sufficient. Both the "also sometimes" and "sometimes also" can be a little clumsy. If the additional meaning has no real purpose in your writing, omit it. It will strengthen your main ideas. Someone wrote that you should cut all words until any additional word cut diminishes meaning. Something like that anyway. Sorry about providing an answer in this style, which is not according to the rules. Don't know why we keep ignoring that answers are often not in the 2+2=4 format.

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