1. John yesterday went to the store to buy eggs.

  2. John went to the store yesterday to buy eggs.

  3. John went to the store to buy eggs yesterday.

  • The most common usage, you have missed: John went to the store yesterday to buy eggs. – Lambie Mar 19 '18 at 18:15
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    @Lambie but that's option #2... – psosuna Mar 19 '18 at 18:16
  • Can you explain why that's the "right" one. – James Spademen Mar 19 '18 at 18:19
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    Whoops, so it is. Sorry. Typically, the time (yesterday, today, last week, a date, three days ago) goes after the action verb. However, it can go at the beginning and at the end of a sentence (utterance). It would not go right after the subject except exceptionally. :) – Lambie Mar 19 '18 at 18:31
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    The first variant sounds unidiomatic, but the other three variants (including Yesterday, ..'\-) are all possible and can give different emphases. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 '18 at 19:46

I suggest the reason we usually position adverbial yesterday at the beginning or end of OP's example sentence (whereas we'd put an adverb like willingly immediately before or after the relevant verb went) is because it modifies the entire sentence.

See this earlier ELU answer about the difference between "sentence" and a "manner" adverbs. But at the end of the day it's largely down to individual stylistic choices.

  • You're trying to sell a temporal adverb as a sentence adverb like hopefully? Do you think topicality might have something to do with it? – KarlG Mar 20 '18 at 4:14
  • Wherever it is positioned, "yesterday" is tightly integrated into clause structure and hence is modifying the VP. It is not like speech act-related adjuncts, compare "Frankly, I think we could do", where "frankly" is a supplement with the main clause as its semantic anchor. – BillJ Mar 20 '18 at 8:37
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    @BillJ, KarlG: It seems to me any one (or pair of) the elements to the store, to buy eggs, and yesterday could be removed. And maybe it's just my personal take on a likely context, but I'd say yesterday is the least "tightly bound" component (going somewhere to buy something being a sorta "identifiable / familiar" activity). If the time was particularly important, I'd probably "promote" it to the start of the utterance (as well as stressing it) - but if it wasn't, I'd just tack it on the end (He did something yesterday). To me, the latter case just seems easier to imagine arising. – FumbleFingers Mar 21 '18 at 16:25

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