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I am not a native speaker.

I am doing the exercise "Put the words in the correct order to make question" from my workbook.

I have this set of words:

your / best / see / did / friend / when / last / you?

And I have three variants of the question:

  1. When did you see your best friend last?
  2. When did you see last your best friend?
  3. When did you last see your best friend?

Which variant is correct and natural? Why?

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1  
You could even have "When did your best friend last see you?" –  user16269 Sep 5 '12 at 22:12
    
@DavidWallace, you are right, but main problem: where in sentence can I put "last"? –  user471011 Sep 5 '12 at 22:17
    
Best is 3. 1 is OK too. See mikeY's answer. –  user16269 Sep 5 '12 at 22:20
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Closely related to english.stackexchange.com/questions/9600/… –  user16269 Sep 5 '12 at 22:22
2  
Also, “When did your last friend see you best?” –  jwpat7 Sep 5 '12 at 22:56
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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, Mahnax, tchrist, Mitch Sep 12 '12 at 19:49

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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

1 and 3 are correct and natural questions. 2 is not. If pushed to guess, I would say 3 is the more common form, although I frequently ask myself "Where did you see your keys last?"

There may be subtle nuances but both questions ask about the most recent time you encountered your best friend.

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  • 2 is definitely incorrect
  • 3 sounds the most natural to me
  • 1 is fairly natural, but also potentially ambiguous, since last might just be taken as a verb (as in to persist, to endure, etc.) rather than as an adverb, i.e. when did you see your best friend last [the course, the interrogation, etc.]? Admittedly, it would be an unlikely misunderstanding, but if you want to be safe, choose option 3.
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Since we don't know the intended meaning, 3 is just as good as 1. It just asks a different question about when you saw your best friend endure or at the back. For example: "I saw my best friend come in last in a race." "Oh? When did you see your best friend last?" –  David Schwartz Sep 5 '12 at 23:27
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  • 3 is the correct answer. 2 is grammatically wrong and the 'last' in the first option ambiguous as it can be considered as a verb.
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All that can be said with certainty is that

When did you see last your best friend?

is incorrect.

Rest depends on what the sentence is intended to mean. You can answer with either [1] or [3].

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