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I would appreciate your help in figuring out the correct phrasing / verb|adverb placement for the following phrase(s):

"Her talents will be best expressed..."


"Her talents will best be expressed..."

Are each of these phrases correct and comparable in meaning? Or is one more grammatically correct?


marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Drew, tchrist Mar 1 '17 at 2:43

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  • Both versions set up a passive voice, so we know the talents are going to be expressed BY something. The second version is worse, though, for splitting the verb will be. Try: "The best way for her to express her talents is (to take dance, through art, by singing in choir)." – Yosef Baskin Feb 28 '17 at 21:33
  • I disagree. Not just because the "rule" against split infinitives is at best shaky, but also because even if it were more solid, it's not a priori obvious that it would, or should, apply to non-"to" cases. – MDHunter Feb 28 '17 at 22:02
  • Please show signs of research (eg Google Ngrams). eg & eg – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '17 at 22:19
  • I would ask the OP to consider editing this to more generally focus on the position of adverbs in modal verb phrases, as that seems to me to be the most interesting issue. Unless "will" shows any rules or conventional usage that differs from other modals (which I don't think it does), trying to understand whether modals differ from or are similar to more well-understood situations can help distinguish this from many near-duplicate questions regarding adverb placement. – MDHunter Feb 28 '17 at 22:33
  • @MDHunter The general question has already been asked. Although I think better answers are possible, they should be included in the original string. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '17 at 22:53

The Cambridge English Dictionary's "English Grammar Today" section suggests that the latter is preferred. It counsels that degree or focusing adverbs usually go mid-sentence / mid-position, as you've done here, and that when there's more than one verb, placement is after the first auxiliary or modal verb.

Others are likely to say --- not incorrectly --- that this is prescriptivist advice, and that a descriptivist analysis of normal usage will suggest that it can go in either position (and possibly even after "expressed") and that neither should properly be called incorrect. I can't disagree, but I think "will be best" will put you on the firmest footing. They are quite comparable in meaning, regardless.

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