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In the following example, realtype stands for a computer data type defined by a computer. The data type might be different on different computers; ie the definition of realtype is machine-dependent.

If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be defined { different / differently / something else }.

Which of the alternative endings should I choose? Please say why, in plain English. I prefer an answer with simple rules that I can remember and easily apply.

I tried to understand an earlier question, to no avail.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The last response from the linked question is probably the best and clearest. "Differently" modifies the verb ("defined"), whereas "different" would modify the noun ("realtype"). So I'm almost certain you want "differently" because the defining is what's different.

"Differently" is an adverb, "different" is an adjective (generally).

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I suspected "differently", and that's what I always use. I re-read the last response to the linked question and you're right, it does explain it well. I guess it didn't sink in the first time. :( –  Jeff Sep 2 '12 at 20:58
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If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be defined (different/differently/some_other_way)?

..

If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be defined differently?

..

Why the correct answer is 'differently' or 'in some other way', (in plain English)

First of all, if you try the alternative - different - it is unsatisfactory.

If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be defined different? Incorrect

It would be acceptable to say:

If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be defined in some other way?

The reason why it is difficult to produce an answer in plain English is because the original sentence is not in plain English. Words like 'realtype' and 'defined' are jargon type words that have a narrow technical meaning.

http://www.gnu-pascal.de/gpc/Real-type.html

You could say:

If my [computer] code is executed on another system, realtype might be different?

You would then have to explain why your computer code - realtype - would be different on a different system. That the definition of realtype would be different.

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-1 Whether the term is familiar or unfamiliar is completely irrelevant; different must be cast as an adverb, with the -ly suffix, because in this construction it modifies the verb. –  StoneyB Sep 2 '12 at 19:27
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Also, 'this is right because the alternative is unsatisfactory' isn't much of an explanation. –  TimLymington Sep 2 '12 at 20:08
    
@Robin That's a good point, too. And I even whittled the sentence down to avoid as much jargon as possible. –  Jeff Sep 2 '12 at 20:59
    
@Robin You'll notice someone edited the OP to make it clearer. Maybe that helps. –  Jeff Sep 3 '12 at 2:27
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