English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
Position of the adverb “of course”
Should an adverb go before or after a verb?

I was wondering what position of an adverb relative to more than one auxiliary verbs are generally? For example, "have basically been doing something" or "have been basically doing something"? Thanks!

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, jwpat7, kiamlaluno, MετάEd, Marthaª Jan 25 '12 at 19:12

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

In the specific case of this modern use of the word "basically", I wouldn't worry too much where you put it. Basically the word itself means very little, so it can largely be ignored purely on that count. But secondly, it tends to mark you out as a bit of a "downmarket speaker", so whoever you're speaking to won't be expecting a careful choice of word order anyway. – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:29
I think it's no different to another similar adverbial usage - of course, so I'm voting to close as a dup of that one (which I haven't read, basically because I don't think it's worth it). – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:31
Thanks! How about replacing basically with another more meaningful adverb such as mostly? – Tim Jan 24 '12 at 2:32
@FumbleFingers: The case there is different from mine here. I have two auxiliary verbs "have" and "been" besides the main verb "doing". If there is only one auxiliary verb, then I know the adverb is generally placed between it and the main verb. But for the case of more than one auxiliary verbs, I need some opinion. – Tim Jan 24 '12 at 2:35
Okay, I've been and looked at the other one. Basically you can put these kind of adverbs more or less anywhere. Or to rephrase, you can basically put them where you like. Even, if you wish, put them basically anywhere. In short, there is no meaningful difference, and it's not about "correct grammar". – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

To pick a more concrete example,

  1. I basically have been practicing violin.
  2. I have been basically practicing violin.

The first says that other things have happened, I may have other occupations, but I'm mostly practicing violin.

The second says that what I'm doing is, essentially, not playing randomly or performing, but practicing violin.

These are generalizations; either sentence can carry the other sense depending on context, but that is how I'd compare the two.

EDIT: Changed the 1st example a bit to move the adverb out away from the main verb to show that it tends more to modify the auxiliary ("have been", which could be replaced by "am in the habit of" or "tend to") when not next to the main verb. That, I realize, is what I was driving at. And this would only hold true if the adverb can potentially modify either the auxiliary or the main verb, with different results.

share|improve this answer
I think that even if you personally thought you were making different statements with those two examples, almost no-one would make your second interpretation unless you stressed the word practicing - in which case it would make no difference where you'd put the word basically anyway. – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 2:44
As I said, either can carry the other sense depending on context, and I guess I should have said on stress, too. Sheesh. – JeffSahol Jan 24 '12 at 2:47
The word has basically become so devoid of meaning it can slot in almost anywhere. You just throw it somewhere in the sentence, basically. – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 3:11
Ah, I see what you mean. Essentially. – JeffSahol Jan 24 '12 at 3:32
Ah, but whereas I could say "we are essentially as one", I couldn't possibly accept "We essentially are as one", because "essentially" still has some vestige of meaning. I reckon I could do that with "really" though, and maybe even "basically" as well. – FumbleFingers Jan 24 '12 at 3:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.