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What is the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

  1. This feature is now disabled.
  2. This feature is disabled now.
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2  
Absolutely no meaning difference. They have a different intonation contour, though, and a speaker might prefer one to another. –  John Lawler Oct 13 '12 at 12:58
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I agree that these written versions are equivalent, and that most readers wouldn't see a difference, and that most speakers wouldn't be attempting to say something different by putting "now" in one position or the other in a normal conversation, but a spoken version of the second sentence might be an attempt to be dramatic if the speaker shouts Now! and pushes the Disable switch at the very second he says Now!. "The most important word in the sentence should come last", says Strunk. This is purely speculative, even far-fetched, but possible. –  user21497 Oct 13 '12 at 13:27
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I don't think that this question deserves a downvote. It's a reasonable question for a non-native speaker of English. Downvotes without reasons are unfriendly and not instructive. –  user21497 Oct 13 '12 at 13:52
    
@BillFranke You're right. In Russian, we have several words (сейчас, теперь, отныне) that can be translated as 'now', but nevertheless have slightly different meaning. I'm trying to understand whether this difference is expressed by word order in English. –  thorn Oct 13 '12 at 14:03
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@BillFranke All three correspond to the "present time" meaning. "Отныне" is strictly translated as "from now on". The difference between "сейчас" and "теперь" is far harder to explain. "Теперь" is closer to "отныне" and implies a contraposition between present and past. "Сейчас" is just "currently", "at the moment", "at present" without any reference to past. Kris's answer seems really close to this difference. –  thorn Oct 14 '12 at 8:50

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There's an interesting semantic implication in shifting the position of now.

Consider this:

This feature is now disabled.

One would infer that the feature was probably destined to be disabled and now it has been done.

This feature is disabled now.

One understands that the feature is currently disabled and may at any future time be enabled again.

The real reason is that in the first case, the subject or main reference is the status ('disabled'); in the latter, the context ('now'). Note that the above inferences are drawn based on convention and not grammatical rules.

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+1 Interesting analysis. I might be persuaded to agree after thinking about it. I don't have time now, though. But one has to be aware of the convention. –  user21497 Oct 13 '12 at 15:01
    
+1 Concur. Context elicits different constructions. –  StoneyB Oct 13 '12 at 15:50
    
+1 Related: “Now I am” vs. “I am now” –  coleopterist Oct 13 '12 at 18:33

Absolutely no meaning difference. They have a different intonation contour, though, and a speaker might prefer one to another. But a spoken version of the second sentence might be an attempt to be dramatic if the speaker shouts "Now!" and pushes the "Disable" switch at the very second he says "Now!"

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+1 Interesting that you did a mash-up of the two comments above. I wasn't aware that this was possible (in the sense of allowed). I'm going to edit the spelling of two words in your answer. –  user21497 Oct 13 '12 at 13:49
    
It makes me pretty disturbed that my answer is at odds with the community wiki answer. –  Kris Oct 14 '12 at 10:38
    
Disturbed? Ah, I see: behavior change is not a discrete event; it takes time, but I am sure you are on the right road. However, for now, you have no more than 20 points for each answer. @Kris –  user19148 Oct 14 '12 at 11:39

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