After their first date, very often Susie came to the sea to meet him, if not almost every night.

Can you identify the name the bold part? Is it an adverbial phrase? Strangely, I have never encountered it before. I searched on Google, and the results contain the similar structure "if not almost", but I don't know whether any of these websites are well-written ones.

Two other questions:

  1. "Very often" is also an adverbial phrase; is it correct to have two of them in a sentence?

  2. I see that people often add a comma after "very often"; is it okay not to put a comma here?

  • I'd call the bold part a gaffe. It simply doesn't make sense to contrast "very often" with "if not almost every day" like this, irrespective of the syntax itself. – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '15 at 17:36
  • Where is the quotation from? Is it from a Mills & Boon romance novel? Whatever, the "very often ... if not almost every night" if not a gaffe as such, is certainly quite comically overstretching things, in terms of describing the frequency of something happening. Used with care, more than one adverbial phrase may be in a sentence. Very often, people do use a comma after "very often", however it is not required in the sample sentence since the required pause is inserted prior to it. – Cargill Dec 15 '15 at 18:55
  • It's kind of out of place. It's an adverbial modifier to "very often", so it should be written as "very often, if not every night, Susie came to the sea". – Barmar Dec 21 '15 at 20:01

It's an adverbial phrase, being used to modify and intensify the phrase very often. Putting it at the end of the sentence makes it a misplaced modifier, because an adverb should normally be adjacent to the phrase it modifies. Better ways to word it might be:

After their first date, very often, if not every night, Susie came to the sea to see him.

After their first date, Susie came to the sea to see him very often, if not every night.

After their first date, Susia came to the sea to see him many, if not every, night.

As to your question about putting a comma after very often. That would be more reasonable if that were the beginning of the sentence, so it was modifying the sense of the entire sentence. But in this example, the phrase After their first date serves that role, and a comma follows it; if you also put a comma after very often, it would seem more like a list of adverbial phrases modifying the rest of the sentence.

In fact, to avoid that confusion in my first rewording, we could use a different way to set off if not every night:

After their first date, very often (if not every night) Susie came to the sea to see him.

| improve this answer | |

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.