5

When you say:

I earn fifty dollars a week scarcely.

I know this is not correct. It doesn't sound right and you can't apply an adverb to "a week" because it doesn't make sense and that's not the point you're trying to convey. So this would be a misplaced modifier. However, I do not know how to correct this. The best attempts I have come up with is:

I scarcely earn fifty dollars a week.

or

I earn scarcely fifty dollars a week.

I have a feeling the first one is right but also think that the second one makes more grammatical sense. Which one is right?

2

The sentences

(1) I scarcely earn fifty dollars a week.

and

(2) I earn scarcely fifty dollars a week.

both sound correct to me, but with slightly different emphases. In sentence (1), scarcely modifies earn, whereas in sentence (2), scarcely modifies fifty. That said, one might argue that it is syntactically ambiguous and scarcely can be analyzed to modify either word.

In this particular sentence, the difference is not very noticeable, but we can construct sentences with the same structure where the difference is more obvious:

I almost like half of those people. (50% of the people are people who I almost like.)

I like almost half of those people. (Slightly less than 50% of the people are people who I like.)

1

I scarcely earn fifty dollars a week.

This sentence sounds more natural. Here, the adverb "scarcely" is modifying the verb "earn".

However, the second sentence is also correct. Try replacing "scarcely" with "merely" and you will get your answer.

I merely earn fifty dollars a week.

I earn merely fifty dollars a week.

Here, both the sentences seem absolutely perfect. A modifier should be placed closest possible to the the clause, or verb or anything which it modifies.

1

Either is grammatically correct. Adverbs can be placed in different positions in a sentence.

  • 2
    Not necessarily. Some adverbs cannot be placed in different positions in a sentence. – user140086 Dec 15 '15 at 6:53
1

scarcely

only just; almost not at all.

[Merriam-Webster]

Your first sentence is correct

I scarcely earn fifty dollars a week.

Perhaps, you can consider replacing scarcely with hardly, both words being synonymous

hardly

used to emphasize a minimal amount

[Merriam-Webster]

So, you sentence becomes:

I hardly earn 50 dollars per week


Edit: Answer updated according to Tom's inputs.

  • 1
    The word scarcely, although it is derived from scarce has a slightly different meaning. It is pretty much a direct synonym of hardly. Merriam-Webster defines it as: by a narrow margin, only just, almost not – TomMcW Dec 15 '15 at 5:12
  • Agree. It was an oversight from my end. I have updated the answer accordingly – BiscuitBoy Dec 15 '15 at 5:28
1

"scarcely" works like "only" (which has been discussed in earlier questions). In your example, the focus of "scarcely" is probably "fifty", and so "scarcely" can modify, and be put immediately before, any of the constituents other than S which contain that focus. Those constituents are:

fifty, fifty dollars, fifty dollars a week, earn fifty dollars a week

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