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Which of the following is correct?

  • "formerly active member"
  • "former active member"
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    [[formerly active] [member]] vs [former [active member]]. Both are correct. – John Lawler Jun 22 '15 at 19:49
  • @JohnLawler, but do they mean the same? Suppose someone ceased to be a member but remained active ... – Greg Lee Jun 22 '15 at 19:57
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    The first implies 'not currently an active member' and invites the inference 'not currenly a member'; the second has the same implication, but no special invited inference that I can get. – John Lawler Jun 22 '15 at 20:06
  • I think precisely because they both invite the inference 'not currenly a member', and because the second form is far more common, I'd be inclined to dismiss that inference in the (somewhat unusual) first version, and assume it must have been deliberately chosen to specifically convey 'still a member, but no longer active'. – FumbleFingers Jun 22 '15 at 20:38
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Which of the following is correct? Depends on what you are trying to say.

"formerly active member" Still a member. Used to be active, but not anymore.

"former active member" Used to be a member, but not anymore. Was active when a member.

Reference: Me.

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Formerly is the adverbial form of former, but there is no verb it can refer to. As a result the second sentence is correct, when standing alone. If the whole sentence is build in a way that 'formerly' can refer to the verb it would be correct also.

"former active member"

to be interpreted as follows:

  • former (active member)

    1. no longer an active member -> only a passive member now
    2. no longer a member at all (even no passive one)
  • (former active) member

    1. no longer active but still a member -> now a passive member
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  • The structure you give for "former active member" differs from that described by McCawley, who would say that the adjective "former" modifies the N' "active member". Then if a person either ceased being a member (remaining active) or ceased being active (remaining a member), he would be a former active member. – Greg Lee Jun 22 '15 at 20:05
  • @greglee my answer is wrong. I dont know how but I took active for a verb. I will correct it. Even though I disagree to one point of your comment and will take that into account altering the answer. – Daniel Jun 22 '15 at 20:22
  • Well, maybe it's wrong, I don't know. But I didn't say it was wrong. I just said that you differ from McCawley about this. I thought you would be interested. – Greg Lee Jun 22 '15 at 21:54
  • @GregLee That it is wrong occurred to me on second reading just after your comment. I had to think about the comment quite a while. I had to figure out that 'ceasing being a member' means, you cannot be active or passive (in terms of membership) anymore. – Daniel Jun 22 '15 at 22:27
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    If former modifies active, shouldn't it be formerly? He was formerly active in the Elks Club, not former active. Only if "active member" is taken to be a single unit should former be the right choice: the former left fielder of the Yankees. But I don't think "active member" is a set phrase in that sense. Especially when "formerly active member"--i.e. a member who was formerly active, not who was formerly a member--means the same thing and sounds better. – Steven Littman Jun 23 '15 at 1:31
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To my knowledge, it sounds a bit odd to repeat two adjoining adjectives in a row, unless you use a comma. You can still form the phrase using words in the order of an adverb, an adjective and a noun. i.e. recently purchased car, very nice dress, utterly surprising event

Thus, to answer your question, you'd like to use 'formerly (adverb) active (adj) member (n)'or if you'd insist, 'former, active member'.

Hope it helped!

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Two phrases, one is of (adverb+adjective+noun) and the other of (adjective+adjective+noun ie.red hot iron) are correct.As regards nicities of usage,to my mind, sense of detachment is more in "former active member".

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  • Guifa,correct you are.Daniel,you are not.Please don't isolate the word 'member' from the phrases and see, both go fine with either'a' or 'the'! – Barid Baran Acharya Jun 24 '15 at 5:37

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