1) Нe went upstairs quietly last night.

2) Нe quietly went upstairs last night.

What version is right? I can't find information about this issue.

  • 2
    You left out: 3. Quietly, he went upstairs last night. 4. He went quietly upstairs last night. 5. He went upstairs last night, quietly. The point is, there is no "right" place to put the adverb.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 2:25
  • @Robusto thanks. I'm just using materials and it says that "He went quietly upstairs last night" isn't right. I don't trust 100% in this material. Just want to know what is "right" for native speaker, you can speak every variant, but for me like Russian speaker second variant is more pleasant. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


I don't think there is any theory that accounts successfully for adverb placement in English. McCawley gives a pretty straightforward theory in The Syntactic Phenomena of English. It goes like this. Adverbs are modifiers, and the natural places for modifiers are prefixed to what they modify or suffixed to what they modify. "Quietly", like other manner adverbs, modifies V' (or, what are also called VP).

The basic constituent structure of your example is

[S he [V' went upstairs ] ]

and "last night", being a time adverbial, is either a V' modifier or an S modifier, so if it's a V' modifier, we have:

[S he [V' [V' went upstairs ] last night ] ]

and so we'd predict 4 possible positions for "quietly", before and after the two V's in this structure, which I'll number:

[S he (1) [V' (2) [V' went upstairs ] (3) last night ] (4) ]

For this particular example, the theory works pretty well, except that there are a couple of other places the "quietly" could go.


The answer is that adverbs like quietly have considerable flexibility.

From http://www.edufind.com/english-grammar/adverbs-manner/

He asked me quietly to leave the house. the request is quiet

He asked me to leave the house quietly. the leaving is quiet

Sometimes an adverb of manner is placed before a verb + object to add emphasis.


He gently woke the sleeping woman. She angrily slammed the door.

Some writers put an adverb of manner at the beginning of the sentence to catch our attention and make us curious.


Slowly she picked up the knife. Roughly he grabbed her arm.

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