What is the way to place these sentences below? Are they fine or are there some rules?

  • "Mayra is very happy in her life with Harry."
  • "Mayra is very happy with Harry in her life."
  • Sounds better with Harry in her life – Yosef Baskin Feb 27 '17 at 16:24
  • 1
    Welcome to EL&U. These sentences mean different things. What do you want to express? – choster Feb 27 '17 at 17:03

Preposition phrases ordinarily follow the term they modify or complement, so changing the order often changes the meaning.

However, determining whether a PP modifies or complements, and just what a PP means as either a modifier or complement, is often very complex. For instance:

  • Mayra is very happy in her life with Harry.

    Here with Harry is almost certainly a restrictive modifier of her life (if it were not, with Harry would probably be set off with a comma). Her life with Harry may thus contrast with other aspects of her life: her life with her parents, her life at work, her economic life, and so forth.

    The full PP in her life with Harry may be parsed as either a complement of the adjective happy or an adjunct (clausal modifier) of the clause Mayra is very happy.

    • The complement parsing Happy in X sometimes means fortunate that X is the case; if this is the case the sentence would mean something like Mayra is very lucky to have Harry in her life. This assumes a literary rather than colloquial context for the sentence.
    • An adjunct parsing is more likely: this describes the "scene" of Mayra's happiness, the circumstances under which she is happy. The fact that the object of in is restricted by the PP with Harry suggests that what is meant is something like

      This aspect of Mayra's life makes her happy (but other aspects may not).

    It is just possible that a temporal restriction is intended, contrasting her (current) life with Harry and her (prior) life without Harry; in this case the sentence would mean something like "Mayra is very happy since Harry came into her life". But in her life with Harry is an unlikely way of expressing this thought ...

  • Mayra is very happy with Harry in her life.

    ... This, in fact, is the natural way of expressing the notion that Harry's presence in her life is the cause of Mayra's happiness. There is, to be sure, a complement construction, happy with X, meaning gratified or pleased by X; however, this construction requires that X be an NP or a 'nouny' gerund clause—

    She is very happy with the outcome.
    She is very pleased with Harry.
    She is very happy with Harry's passing his exams.

    Harry in her life will ordinarily be understood not as an NP but as a 'small' or verbless clause from which the copula BE has been deleted, so it doesn't work as the object of a with complement.

    The likeliest meaning of Mayra is very happy with Harry in her life is

    Now that Harry is in her life Mayra is very happy.

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I can't really justify this with anything more than intuition, but for me, the second version, with Harry in her life, is clearer that Harry is the cause of Mayra's happiness. The first version says that Mayra lives with Harry, and that Mayra is happy about (at least some aspects of) her life, but doesn't attribute her happiness to Harry as explicitly.

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