I know the first example is correct and I'm pretty sure the second is incorrect, but I wonder why. So, we can say "I saw an extremely angry dog", but not "I saw extremely an angry dog." When do we put the adverb before/after the article?

  • +1 Great question. Can't wait to see an answer. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 2 '15 at 14:38
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    Well, one is a fixed phrase and the other isn't; that's going to make a difference. As for the parallel with an extremely, that's not the same thing. Exactly determines the correctness of the time -- essentially modifying the whole prepositional phrase at the right time, either from inside the phrase (at exactly the right time), or from right before it (exactly at the right time) -- whereas extremely is a simple intensifier, modifying only the adjective angry, so it can't be moved aways from it. This doesn't say why one would want to move it, though. – John Lawler Feb 2 '15 at 16:44

In the first example, exactly modifies the adverbial phrase "the right time." It is, thusly, an adverb modifying another adverb, which is correct. In the second example, "the right time is the object of a preposition and must be modified by the adjective "exact" rather than the adverb "exactly."

  • Thank-you for your answer. I've been thinking about it. Is it wrong to modify the object of a preposition with an adverb? For example: "He left without completely finishing." In this case, "completely" seems to modify the object of the preposition "finishing". – Gaper Feb 16 '15 at 6:48

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