Is there a difference in these two sentences, and if so, what is the difference?

  1. Immediately afterwards I remembered having met her.
  2. I remembered having met her immediately afterwards.

I think there is a difference but cannot identify what it is.


1 Answer 1


As John Lawler comments, "the second one has the usual attachment ambiguity".

I find it quite tricky to show that ambiguity - but first let's simplify things by replacing immediately afterwards with later, since it makes no difference to the issue under consideration. Then precede both versions by the same context...

1: I photoshopped a girl out of my graduation ceremony picture. Later I remembered having met her.

So far as I'm concerned, that can only be interpreted as meaning after I'd photoshopped her out of my picture, I remembered having met her (but it says nothing about when I actually met her).

2: I photoshopped a girl out of my graduation ceremony picture. I remembered having met her later.

This version could mean the same as #1, but it could also mean I met her after the ceremony (in which case it says little or nothing about when I actually remembered having met her).

Obviously the speaker himself would know which meaning he intended with #2. But personally if I were reading just those words, I would naturally assume the second meaning. I think the reason for my assumption is simply that with terms like afterwards, later, by default I go with the nearest (i.e. - most recently-mentioned) referent that could feasibly apply.

  • @YDAU: I hope you also read Rachel's answer to the question this may validly be closevoted against. It goes into more detail about the general case, and how to avoid the ambiguity if necessary. Jul 5, 2013 at 3:28
  • Actually I understand the attachment ambiguity (verb attachment?) but was confused by the 'remembered having met'and why in the first case 'immediately afterwards' would attach to 'remembered' but in the sentence end phrase it would attach to 'having met.'
    – YDAU
    Jul 5, 2013 at 10:45
  • @YDAU: Having looked at it more closely, I can't actually see anything in that earlier answer about any possible "default" attachment where there's potential for ambiguity. My position, as stated above, is that one should assume the nearest credible referent. In your case (and my structurally similar example), all possible referents must have been mentioned before the adverbial phrase, so I think the default should be the last one of those. Your text doesn't explicitly give any possibilities - but mine gives two, of which I opt for the latter (the ceremony itself, not the photoshopping). Jul 5, 2013 at 13:23

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