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There are two sentences:

I completely understand.
I understand completely.

Which one is correct and why?

Another example:

I slowly opened the door.
I opened the door slowly.

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All your examples are grammatically correct. In general, putting an adverb before or after the verb doesn't imply any significant difference in meaning. I don't disagree with the 'rules' Snubian highlights, but they're routinely broken for stylistic and other reasons, so please don't think you must learn and observe them! –  FumbleFingers May 5 '11 at 3:07
    
Thank FumbleFingers. I view the comment as an valuable answer even though it is just a comment that was left here. –  Edison Chuang May 5 '11 at 8:18
    
Thanks for the acknowledgement. I also agree with arrrghh's Answer. But as [s]he says, if we try to analyse small differences between various sentences with the adverb before or after the verb, this might involve a lot of discussion and disagreement, and would probably just end up being confusing rather than helpful to you. –  FumbleFingers May 5 '11 at 17:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are several types of adverbs, and the rules concerning their position in a sentence vary. Here is a quick and useful summary.

Your second example includes the commonly used 'adverb of manner', which would normally be placed immediately following the object, if there is one, otherwise following the verb. So using this rule the 'correct' version would be:

I opened the door slowly.

Another example would be:

I ate my dinner slowly.

You could omit the object and it becomes:

I ate slowly.

In your first example I would also deem 'completely' to be an adverb of manner, so the correct usage would be:

I understand completely.

If, however, instead of 'completely' you had used 'occasionally' or 'rarely' then it would be an adverb of frequency, in which case the adverb moves before the verb and the sentence becomes:

I rarely understand.

Having said all that, I don't think there is ambiguity in any of the four examples you provided.

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They seem equally correct in your examples.

The order would give a slight difference in emphasis, though I bet people would disagree on which one highlights 'slowly' more in your second example.

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