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“have basically been doing something” or “have been basically doing something”

I'm searching basically for conversation classes"

or

I'm basically searching for conversation classes

The second one sounds better to me, but is the first one actually wrong or are they both possible? If they are, why? Is "basically" considered as an adverb of manner? Is there some sort of rule on the position of this adverb?

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marked as duplicate by Marthaª, jwpat7, MετάEd, FumbleFingers, Mark Beadles Oct 20 '12 at 0:14

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On a side note, use of basically in this sense is not considered good formal writing. Just my 2c. –  Kris Oct 19 '12 at 4:51

2 Answers 2

An adverb of manner expresses the manner in which an action is done. Now, if things can be done in a basic manner, they can presumably also be done in an expert manner. So if you can say "I'm searching basically for conversation classes" is an adverb of manner, you could also say "I'm searching expertly for conversation classes." I don't think this is what you mean.

You are probably intending this adverb to be a sentence-modifying adverb. Sentence-modifying adverbs are usually used at the start or end of clauses, or right before the verb:

"Basically, I'm searching for conversation classes."

"I'm searching for conversation classes, basically."

"I'm basically searching for conversation classes."

The position of the adverb can change the intended focus of the sentence. To put basically at the front highlights or emphasizes the idea that "what I'm about to say is a basic summary, etc. of what I'm doing or searching for." The other forms are neutral and put no special emphasis on that idea.

Compare the following:

He gave me a rose, he gave her a chrysanthemum.

It was a rose he gave me, he gave her a chrysanthemum.

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+ "The position of the adverb can change the intended focus of the sentence." Someone there agreeing with my contention about it. However, most grammarians seem to insist otherwise. –  Kris Oct 19 '12 at 4:50

The first question to ask is Does the word "basically" add any meaning or value to the sentence? For me, the answer is a definite No. The best position for basically in that sentence is the garbage can. If the word were only, however, the question would have some meaning. Modifying Merk's example sentences:

"I'm only searching for conversation classes."
"I'm searching only for conversation classes."

gives two sentences that most native speakers would agree mean the same thing and are merely style options.[1]

It can come at the end of the sentence:

"I'm searching for conversation classes only."

in which case, it means the same thing as the first two.

If it comes at the beginning:

"Only, I'm searching for conversation classes."

the meaning of "only" changes to "except" or "but", as in:

(A) "I see that you're wasting time surfing the Internet again."
(B) [Nods head in affirmation and says:] "Only, I'm searching for conversation classes."

I don't know whether this usage is universal or just part of my dialect, however.


[1] I don't agree with that because I think the continuations are logically different, but that's a different discussion and the answer to a different question, so I won't get into it here and will say only that, for the sake of argument and this question, I'll accept what most native English speakers would agree to.

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If the student would have used "only" he would have wanted to be more specific, I think by using "basically" he wanted to say that he essentially needed conversation classes and it just sounded odd to me to put basically behind the second verb...but I suppose there is no rule in this case. All answers very useful but first one the best! thank you guys –  debra Oct 20 '12 at 17:16
    
That should be If the student had used "only", he would have wanted to have been more specific. The sequence of tenses is difficult, even for native speakers of English. The only "rule" that means anything to me is this: Say what you mean and mean what you say. "Basically" is a meaningless addition to the sentence. Your analysis proves that, because you feel that you have to interpret the meaning. That means that the word added no value or meaning to the sentence, only a hurdle to understanding. All it did was force the reader to have to make an unnecessary inference. –  user21497 Oct 20 '12 at 22:35

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