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I had an editor who was very picky about the use of the adverb "also" used with the past tense of "to be." According to her, there was a difference between "was also" and "also was." For example: to say someone "was also" a high school teacher means he or she was a high school teacher in addition to being something else. As in, "The serial killer was also a high school teacher." Whereas, "also was" is the correct usage for saying someone shared an attribute with someone else, as in, "Andrew was a serial killer, and his sister Marie also was a serial killer."

But as anyone who's ever worked with more than one editor knows, they tend to be idiosyncratic, and all have their own little pet peeves. And they go on to become our pet peeves (one of my first editors took umbrage with "over" used to mean "more than" -- to this day I still feel a twinge when I see that usage).

I did some searches on usage of also and did not find any evidence to support her position -- but I know some of the fine points of English usage can be abstruse, so I decided to come here, where the grammar black belts congregate ;)

I read the post on "should also have named" "also should have named" with interest, and it sheds some light. But I'm not convinced this rule (if it really is a rule) applies to all verbs, let alone compound verbs.

Is some of this a matter of just avoiding awkward usages, even if they are technically correct -- or anyway, not blatantly grammatically incorrect?

Thanks!

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Jim, tchrist, ScotM, user66974 Apr 3 '15 at 15:55

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Your examples seem to make it clear you understand two possible interpretations of also depending on whether it precedes or follows the verb - 1) In addition [to whatever else she was], Marie was also a killer, as opposed to In addition to Andrew [being a killer], Marie also was one. In many contexts this would be a fine if not meaningless distinction, but the general principle is simply that we expect to apply the sense of also to the nearest (usually, preceding) plausible candidate word. Except it sometimes doesn't work very well, as in your example. – FumbleFingers Mar 30 '15 at 16:25
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    Possibly related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/90756/… – Jim Mar 30 '15 at 16:27
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    @Jim: I reckon the answer on that earlier question exactly and completely addresses the issue (and is also better than my attempt in the above comment! :) – FumbleFingers Mar 30 '15 at 16:31
  • @FumbleFingers: generally agree - the argument for my answer is there in your comment. – Marius Hancu Mar 30 '15 at 16:55
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    @Marius: Yes, I think you, me, and mplunjan on the earlier question all have the same basic understanding here, but we're finding different ways of talking about it. Your point that it's more about the position of the word also than the presence of a [TO BE] verb form is key here though, so I've upvoted you to counter what I feel is a rather harsh downvote. – FumbleFingers Mar 30 '15 at 17:05
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The positioning of also before a form of be sounds very rarified, at least in conversation, nowadays. English Page advises not to use it [reformatted]:

Also ...

PLACEMENT

"Also" comes after "to be."

Examples:

I am also Canadian.

I was also there.

...

Often, context and especially intonation will disambiguate (EP's examples are unlikely to mean anything other than 'I too ...'). If there is a possibility of ambiguity, rephrasing is probably preferable.

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I had an editor who was very picky about the use of the adverb "also" used with the past tense of "to be." According to her, there was a difference between "was also" and "also was." For example: to say someone "was also" a high school teacher means he or she was a high school teacher in addition to being something else. As in, "The serial killer was also a high school teacher." Whereas, "also was" is the correct usage for saying someone shared an attribute with someone else, as in, "Andrew was a serial killer, and his sister Marie also was a serial killer."

I find myself in agreement with this editor.

However, I feel that "was" is not so much relevant to the discussion as the position of "also" wrt sentence elements is.

  • I disagree. 'I am also Canadian' sounds more natural to my ears than 'I also am Canadian', and these Google Ngrams seem to show that most people would agree. 'I was also there' also heavily outperforms 'I also was there'. It's not helpful to be prescriptivist when most people are using language a different way. If someone says 'It is I' when you ask who's ringing the doorbell, don't let them in. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 30 '15 at 18:23

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