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I found this phrase from a book I am reading now. "Tommy did not seem at all dejected." It sounded unnatural to me. And why not something like "Tommy did not seem dejected at all." I feel like more familiar in this way. Am I wrong? or up to writer's choice? Thank you.

  • Either is perfectly correct and both sound idiomatic. There is a slight difference in emphasis but it is negligible. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 22:35
  • @chaslyfromUK, Thank you for a comment. Can you tell me which one is slight stronger? And if you were writer, which one you are going to choose? – teizoartjewelry Aug 31 '15 at 22:43
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    It's a (compound) degree modifier (traditionally, a degree adverb). It's a negative polarity item (you can't say Tommy seemed at all dejected). The more obvious question might be 'Why can it be placed after the adjective?' Tommy seemed very / really / worryingly dejected. Tommy did not seem very / too dejected. But note the emphasised 'Tommy did not seem very dejected at all.' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '15 at 22:45
  • @teizoartjewelry I'm not sure how to answer. You can say, 'John slowly walked towards me.' or 'John walked towards me slowly.' The first emphasises 'slowly' somewhat whereas the second emphasises 'walked' and 'slowly' is something of an afterthought. Nether is weaker or stronger. – chasly from UK Aug 31 '15 at 22:56
  • @chaslyfromUK, Thanks a lot. Now I got some sense of that slight nuance. – teizoartjewelry Aug 31 '15 at 23:05
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Usually there is flexibility about where adverbs go, e.g.

You can say, 'John slowly walked towards me' or 'John walked towards me slowly.' The first emphasises 'slowly' somewhat whereas the second emphasises 'walked', and 'slowly' is something of an afterthought.

In exactly the same way, it is perfectly acceptable to say, 'Tommy did not seem at all dejected' or 'Tommy did not seem dejected at all.'

All of the above versions are grammatically correct and it is a matter of judgement by the author which to use.

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