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A British colleague asked if these two sentences are grammatically acceptable in American English:

They found already high recognition in Europe and we wish to carry that further.

Furthermore, they will perform a Shostokovich cycle at London's Wigmore Hall, which they presented already in Chicago and New York.

He says that the "already" directly after the verb sounds off key in British English.

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To me, it seems that there is a big difference between these sentences, in that the first puts the adverb between the verb and the direct object, a clear no-no, while the second one does not. This isn't to say that the second one is completely acceptable, but the first one is definitely wrong. –  Peter Shor Oct 27 '11 at 10:48

5 Answers 5

In BrEng, adverbs of time, like already, normally come (1) after the first auxiliary verb in a sentence (We have already been there), (2) after be as a finite verb (They are already here) and (3) before any other finite verb if there is no auxiliary verb in the sentence (We already knew that). There can be some variation, but both your examples would be unusual in BrEng. Both contain a finite verb with no auxiliary verb, so, in accordance with (3), we would expect They already found high recognition . . . and . . . which they already presented in Chicago and New York. Because BrEng prefers perfect aspect in these cases, the sentences would, in fact, probably occur, in accordance with (1), as They have already found high recognition . . . and . . . which they have already presented in Chicago and New York.

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The question is asking about American English. –  Jim Oct 10 '11 at 20:42
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Yeh, I know. Still . . . bit of background does no harm. –  Barrie England Oct 10 '11 at 20:45
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In general, I believe exactly the same rules apply for American English. We might be a little bit looser about exceptions. –  Peter Shor Oct 11 '11 at 2:56
    
But not about preferring the past tense, perhaps. –  Barrie England Oct 11 '11 at 6:25
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@Barrie: no, I was talking about the placement of "already". –  Peter Shor Oct 11 '11 at 14:31

It's a bit tricky. The first would sound strange to a native speaker, but the second would sound fine.

I think the distinction would have to do with the object of the verb. If it is present before the verb, then using "already" after the verb sounds okay (such as your second example). If it comes after the verb, then "already" should be used before the verb or after the entire object. The following two sentence sound natural and correct to me:

They [had/have] already found high recognition in Europe and we wish to carry that further.

They [had/have] found high recognition in Europe already, and we wish to carry that further.

Although as I wrote these two examples, I realized they sound a bit more natural with either "have" or "had", but not using have/had sounds fine as well.

This chart of adverb placement seems to explain it rather accurately.

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+1 for a reference, which all other answers lack –  Unreason Oct 27 '11 at 7:34

The first one sounds off key to me, as well. I believe the second one is saved by the fact that in "already in Chicago and New York", the phrase "in Chicago and New York" is in some sense limiting the scope of "already". So if you change the first one to:

They are widely recognized already in Europe and we wish to carry that further,

it sounds much better. And if you change the second one to:

*Furthermore, they will perform a Shostokovich cycle at London's Wigmore Hall, which they presented already before a packed audience,

it now sounds off-key as well.

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Yes, it can, but it generally doesn't.

It seems to do best in sentences that are quite short - essentially, subject, verb + already. (Adding phrases before the core sentence is possible, but following the word already, the only real sensible expansion comes with a conjunction and a new sentence.)

Some examples where already occurs immediately after the verb:

He left already.

I showered already.

They ate already.

It may simply be that in sentences so short, the order doesn't matter, or the different placement of already is simply less jarring. But such forms are certainly in use in American English today.

In your two examples, however, I think the present perfect tense is really what you want to be using, not the past.

They have already found recognition or They have found recognition already would be good options for your first sentence. This tense better expresses that the recognition is ongoing; the simple past tense makes it sound as if they found recognition at some point and subsequently lost it.

As to #2, sentences in American English tend not to jump from the future to the past in one go - the present perfect is a better choice here, too. They have already presented, thus, would fit better.

It may also be that you're accustomed to seeing already after a past-tense verb when it's being used as a modifier. For instance, That report was presented already or Though new, the dress was badly stained already. (Truthfully, I think the fact that this word order - "presented already..." - is one we're accustomed to hearing in this context is the reason your example #2 sounds less off than #1.)

In general, though, in American English, already comes a) between have/had and the verb or b) prior to the past-tense verb or c) at the head or tail of the sentence.

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The reason #2 sounds less off than #1 is that the adverb comes between the verb and the direct object in #1. Consider "they presented already this Shostokovich cycle in Chicago and New York." –  Peter Shor Oct 29 '11 at 12:59

As a general rule, the adverb should come close to the thing it's modifying. Beyond that, choosing the most appropriate placement can be difficult.

This page gives some recommendations on adverb placement depending on the type of adverb and what it's telling us.

This one recommends that adverbs be placed before an action verb and after a linking verb. It is not necessarily incorrect to do otherwise, but it can sure sound awkward.

Regarding the two specific sentences you asked about:

They already found high recognition in Europe... (best - appears before the action verb and close to found, which is what it's modifying.)

They found high recognition in Europe already... (correct, but inferior to the previous one unless you consider "in Europe" to be the thing it's modifying)

They found already high recognition in Europe... (incorrect - adverb is between the verb and object)

Already they found high recognition in Europe... (incorrect - awkward and far from what it's modifying)

The other sentence:

which they already presented in Chicago and New York. (best, appears before 'presented' and close to it)

which they presented already in Chicago and New York. (correct)

which they presented in Chicago and New York already. (correct, but far from 'presented' so not as good as the others)

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