1

It's often said that changing word order serves to add emphasis to the element moved out of its normal place, but I have doubts. Take for example the sentence:

I spoke to Jim about the party on Tuesday.

If you change that to:

On Tuesday, I spoke to Jim about the party. 

What is the effect? Most say that it emphasizes "On Tuesday", but to me, it sounds like the adverb "On Tuesday" is extra information that 'sets the scene', so to speak.

Suppose someone asked the question "When did you speak to Jim about the party?"

If you answered "On Tuesday, I spoke to Jim about the party." It sounds funny. Instead of emphasizing Tuesday, it sounds like you didn't even answer the question.

What do you think?

1
  • +1 Excellent question. Hope you get a good answer. It's all about information packaging. Very difficult to answer well though. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 7 '15 at 23:57
1

A. I spoke to Jim about the party on Tuesday.

The most likely meaning of this is that the party will take place on Tuesday. In fact the sentence is ambiguous and the only way to distinguish between the two possible meanings is by the speaker's tone of voice. I'll show that approximately by indicating the emphasis.

  1. I spoke to Jim about the party on Tuesday. [I spoke on Tuesday]

  2. I spoke to Jim about the party on Tuesday. [The party is on Tuesday]

B. On Tuesday, I spoke to Jim about the party.

This means that I spoke on Tuesday.

The most likely question to elicit this reply would be an open-ended one, e.g.

"Name something you did last week."

"On Tuesday, I spoke to Jim about the party."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.