Adverbs allow for a range of positions, but focusing how a adverb might be positioned relative to a verb phrase, "always" allows (But is not limited to):

  • For single verb phrases,
    • "always" can go before the verb (I always run.)
    • unless that verb is "to be" (He is always late.)
  • For multiple verb phrases, "always" can injected into the phrase (I have always run.)

I don't know if this is a shared opinion, but I start to think of "not" as being an adverb more usage restrictions:

  • For single verb phrases,
    • we use the verb "do" to make a multiple verb phrase (I do not always run.)
    • unless that verb is "be" (He is not late.)
  • For multiple verb phrases, "not" is injected into the phrase (I have not run.)

I wasn't sure of this, but I realized other adverbs can follow the ruleset of "not" (solemnly: I do solemnly swear. I do solemnly. I have solemnly sworn). "I do solemnly swear" does sound a bit archaic compared to "I solemnly swear". Maybe it's a historical usage that decreased in use, while "I do not swear" did not decrease.

It makes me wonder -- do people think of not as being an adverb with special positioning constraints? What other adverbs might follow these same constraints? Or if it's not an adverb, how to people classify "not" and discuss its usage?

Perhaps the position constraint is not really a positioning constraint but a constraint on the adverb with regards to the verbs or type of verbs it can modify ("not" as an adverb then having strict constraints sometimes requiring the introduction of auxiliary verb "do"). If that is the case, is there a name for these types of constraints that I can google? Or recommended reading on different adverbs and the ranges of verbs they can modify?

Thank you.

  • on average "always" goes before the verb. But here are plenty of perfectly natural instances of [someone] looks always to [do something.] – FumbleFingers Dec 30 '19 at 16:40
  • Yes, always seems to be a more flexible adverb than not. I focused on the mid-verbphrase usage as I was trying to show "not", which is not as flexible, could be considered an adverb. – Frank Schwieterman Dec 30 '19 at 16:50
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    Ask not what linguistics can do for you; ask .... I've seen it argued that the negator 'not' is so unlike all other words that it needs / merits / warrants its own category. The occasion to bother about where to try to shoehorn it rarely arises. Not to say never. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 30 '19 at 17:01
  • The occasion for me is I am writing software related to language generation and so I need to write explicitly what comes intuitively for us. I suspect there is already some thinking on this subject but I don't know how to google it. – Frank Schwieterman Dec 30 '19 at 17:09
  • What you noticed about "to be" is equally true of modal verbs and auxiliary verbs (e.g. You must always do this). However, adverbs, such as "always" can go between subject and modal/auxiliary verb, to stress that verb rather than the main verb (e.g. She always would find exceptions.) – Rosie F Dec 30 '19 at 17:13

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