Building on the question here, I am trying to better understand the difference in use and meaning implied by the change of the adverb position against the preposition in the following sentence:

(1) The whole consists of exclusively small parts.

(2) The whole consists exclusively of small parts.

(3) The whole exclusively consists of small parts.

Case 1: The first sentence sounds to me like exclusively modifies small parts, and is thus used as an adjective, which it is not. As an adverb, it should modify the verb consists. Is this poor construction or accepted use? Edit: Although, if we look at Merriam Webster entry for exclusively, we can see the example an exclusively male/female clientele. This seems like an adjective use.

Case 2: This sounds good to me. The adverb is next to the verb it modifies, and is placed after the erb for increased emphasis on exclusively. I sense a strong preference for this construction. It is very clear that exclusively modifies consists and not small parts, and I sense the ambiguity removed.

Case 3: This seems to me to fine, for the same reason as case 2, the verb and adverb are next to each other. However, it seems weaker and less preferable to case 2. Not sure if more is stated about it.

Is case 1 wrong?

  • I'd use '... consists entirely of ...'; this is so common that no other ordering sounds correct. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '19 at 17:53
  • @EdwinAshworth, Thank you. I would like to convey the meaning that nothing else can be put in the whole other than small parts---i.e., no large parts. Exclusively seems to me to convey this more than entirely, which seems less restrictive. – AimForClarity Dec 29 '19 at 18:21
  • These Google 4grams strongly suggest that only the adverb directly after verb option is at all common. This parallels the case with 'entirely'. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '19 at 19:32

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