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I'm wondering what the difference is between:

  • It can easily be obtained.
  • It can be easily obtained.

Also, what's the preferred way to write it? If there is any...

I googled for both options between quotes and it returned almost the same result (38 million for "can be easily" and 34 million for "can easily be"), so statistically both have similar usage from the people.

Edit: fixed the second point which I had mistyped as "it easily can be obtained".

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I would go with "it can be easily obtained".

"It can easily be obtained" sounds fine, too, but "it easily can be obtained" doesn't. The complete Google stats look as follows:

Searching the British National Corpus returns these results:

  • it can easily be — 40
  • it can be easily — 20
  • it easily can be — 0
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My bad! I was refering to "can be easily" and "can easily be". Sorry, I modify my question. Anyway, thanks for the answer! I think in the British National Corpus we must substract the results for "it can easily be." (notice the period) just to avoid counting the use at the end of sentence, right? –  Alejandro Cámara Oct 14 '10 at 15:41
    
Nothing found with the ending period... –  Alejandro Cámara Oct 14 '10 at 15:45
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Isn't easily describing the action of obtaining? How do you easily "be" anything? And "can be obtained" is just passive and awkward. If you must keep it, then say "It can be easily obtained." But a better way to say it is "You can easily obtain...". It avoids the passivity and solves the problem.

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What’s to be gained by “avoiding the passivity”? –  tchrist Apr 4 '13 at 14:06
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Awkward is in the eye of the beholder. I don't find "can be obtained" awkward in the least, and grammatically it is completely unexceptional. So both subjectively and objectively, "avoiding passivity" in this case is a clear hypercorrection. More to the point, though, you only "solve the problem" by creating a different problem. Who is that you you are talking about? It's likely not to fit the context at all, and you will have to reword the entire rest of the text accordingly. (Which is precisely why passive voice exists in the first place, to elegantly avoid that.) –  RegDwigнt Apr 4 '13 at 14:49
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I think it is can easily be. Because once I read that we can use an adverb between two auxiliary verbs.

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It easily can be either. It can easily be either. –  Matt Эллен Jan 10 '13 at 11:38
    
@MattЭллен Easily can it be either. It can be either easily. –  tchrist Apr 4 '13 at 15:10
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This is a matter of whether to split the infinitive or not - "It can be easily obtained" is preferable if you don't want to fall foul of that thorny issue (as "can" and "be" are not split by the word "easily").

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_infinitive

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No, there's no split infinitive here. A construction is (erroneously) called a split infinitive when a word or words come betweeen the particle 'to' and the plain form of the verb. –  Barrie England Dec 6 '11 at 17:33
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