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Is one form wrong or more correct than the other? Or do they have different meanings?

I'm a non-native speaker trying to figure it out.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The difference between finally was and was finally is the adverb/verb order. Here, your verb is "was", a form of to be and the adverb is finally. There is a good guide on adverb placement, and some listed rules are:

  1. If the sentence has one verb in it (e.g. no auxiliary verb) we usually put the adverb in the middle of the sentence, i.e. after the subject and before the verb

  2. The adverb usually comes after the verb "be" (there are several cases in which this is broken)

  3. If the sentence has more than one verb in it (e.g. auxiliary verb) we usually put the adverb after the first part of the verb

Because your sentence uses was, a past tense form of to be, the second rule applies: The proper word order is:

I was finally able

Note that if you do happen to invert the adverb/verb order, you will be understood in most cases but it won't sound right to a native ear.

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2  
"I was finally able" sounds more natural unless there's emphasis on "finally". But "I finally was able to ..." sounds perfectly natural if one wishes to heavily stress that a long time was needed. –  David Schwartz Aug 18 '11 at 9:29
    
The rules cited here appear to be simplified ones for ESL (which are good ones for the OP, since he is not a native speaker). In this case, you can certainly put finally in either place. @David Schwartz's comment is correct. –  Peter Shor Aug 18 '11 at 12:57

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