Take the 2-minute tour ×
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.

Wikipedia tells us that the order should be place–manner–time. However, this webpage tells that it should be manner–Place–Time. Which one is correct?

I have one sentence in two different orders:

  • No child should grow up in poverty in America in the 21st century.
  • No child should grow up in America in poverty in the 21st century.
share|improve this question
4  
I do not think this is a rigid rule. Adverbs and adverbial phrases can often be moved around; and a sentence with a lot of them reads better when they are clustered together at the end. So, for example, I should write: "In the 21st century no child in America should grow up in poverty". –  user19148 Sep 16 '12 at 18:31
1  
I think both sentences read badly, and that in a bad sentence the order of things is unimportant. Answers to The Royal Order of Adverbs suggest a few rewriting methods. –  jwpat7 Sep 16 '12 at 18:56
    
My English master said "Time-Manner-Place" and most sentences read well in that order. Some don't, though. Carlo's version is best. –  Andrew Leach Sep 16 '12 at 19:20
    
@jwpat7: what do you think of "In the 21st century no child in America should grow up in poverty". Does this construction sound more natural for a native speaker? –  user19148 Sep 16 '12 at 19:21
    
@Andrew: thank you. Glad to hear from you. –  user19148 Sep 16 '12 at 19:23
show 3 more comments

2 Answers

In British English the standard word order for adverbs in end-position is manner-place-time(easy to remember as the initial letters are in alphabetical order m-p-t). However, to avoid too many adverbs in end-position and for emphasis I would suggest to put the adverb of time in front-position. This sounds much more fluent - although I must admit I'm German myself ;)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Adverbs of time do go last, something both your references agree on. For adverbs of place and manner, I believe there is not a general order that is usually followed in English. Consider this Google Ngram showing that stay at home alone beats stay alone at home, but not overwhelmingly. So this example weakly supports the place, manner order.

enter image description here

On the other hand, stay late at work beats stay at work late, but again not overwhelmingly. This is weak evidence for manner, place.

enter image description here

For the OP's question, my opinion is that "in poverty" should come first, because for this example, it is a more important adverbial clause than "in America".

share|improve this answer
    
Not sure what you consider “overwhelming”; the first has more than a 4:1 ratio at the right edge, although you can get that up to 9:1 if you diddle it a bit. The second one looks about like 4½ to 1, but again can be diddled up to 6:1. More diddling examples here. –  tchrist Sep 17 '12 at 0:28
    
For overwhelming, I was thinking of a ratio like the ratio you get when you compare "big white" and "white big". This is close to 100 to 1. –  Peter Shor Sep 17 '12 at 0:49
1  
The sentence "No child should grow up in America in poverty in the 21st century" runs the risk of derailing listeners. You get halfway through and it sounds like you're saying no child should have to grow up in America. –  octern Sep 17 '12 at 1:01
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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