Separation, if any, between two adverbs:

(1) I counted my classmates one by one out loud.

(2) I counted my classmates one by one, out loud. [comma]

(3) I counted my classmates one by one and out loud. [and]

I understand that there are other ways to express this concept and that out loud implies counting one by one, but I want to preserve the emphasis as well as the brevity. I do not want to rewrite the sentence but am happy to switch one by one and out loud around if there is a clear preference. Many thanks for your always thoughtful advice. Jim

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    I don't know if there's any kind of adverb version of the "royal order of adjectives", but personally I have a very strong preference for switching the sequence here to I counted them out loud, one by one. I've no idea how that squares with your ideas about "emphasis" though. Aug 28, 2020 at 15:00
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    @FumbleFingers To me, even better would be this: One by one, I counted them out loud. But it's not clear if that version is explicitly rejected by the question or not. Aug 28, 2020 at 15:05
  • @JasonBassford: I think you're right there. Presumably the key point is both of us feel that out loud needs to be reasonably close to the relevant verb to count. Unavoidably the object (my classmates, them) will intervene, but we don't want anything else getting in the way. Going the whole hog though, I could use another preposition to help the parsing: One by one, I counted them off, out loud. Aug 28, 2020 at 15:16
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    @FumbleFingers I found this, but I can't extrapolate from it to this specific sentence. It seems a matter of opinion if one by one or out loud would be a more specific adverb of manner. (Although the article is quite useful in other ways.) Unless one by one is actually considered an adverb of frequency? Aug 28, 2020 at 15:23
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    I doubt even the prime order of adjectives, let alone of adverbs. The only absolute rule of order, as far as I know is that subject and object, if they occur on opposite sides of the verb (as they usually do), must occur in that order. So what is wrong with: "he was ironing the shirts for relaxation (purpose) after supper (time) in the television room (place), with almost obsessive care (manner)."?
    – Tuffy
    Aug 28, 2020 at 20:17

2 Answers 2


Thanks to Jason for this link...

Order of Adverbs

  1. Manner
  2. Place
  3. Frequency
  4. Time
  5. Purpose

But note that it's not obvious to at least two competent native speakers (myself and Jason) exactly why one by one should come further down the list than out loud. All we know for sure is we want out loud to be as close as possible to the verb (count), because it has very "high" priority in this context.

a: I counted them one by one, out loud
b: I counted them out loud, one by one
c: Out loud, I counted them one by one
d: One by one, I counted them out loud
e: One by one, out loud I counted them
f: Out loud, one by one I counted them

Whether and where to include commas are stylistic choices above. They're all syntactically "valid", but at least some of us would prefer out loud to immediately follow the verb (count).

It's not appropriate to include the conjunction and between these particular adverbial elements, even if they appear consecutively (examples a,b,e,f). But offhand I don't know why that is1, given we would include it in a similar construction such as I counted them slowly and carefully.

EDIT: 1 As Edwin comments, there's a "subtle zeugma" involved (the verb to count is being "differently" modified by the two adverbial elements, in a way that makes them too disparate to be idiomatically linked using and).

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    Hmm. Counted them out loud and one by one sounds natural to me. Actually, if I do consider the use of the conjunction (which I hadn't), counted them one by one and out loud also sounds fine to me. I'd only really considered the case where no conjunction was used, and where its lack did make a difference to me. I'm guessing that with the conjunction, I translate it in my mind to an elliptical version of a more complete phrase: counted them one by one, and counted them out loud. Aug 28, 2020 at 16:49
  • Well, I guess everyone's entitled to their own opinion here. But I'm with @Edwin that there's a "subtle zeugma" involved. Aug 28, 2020 at 16:57
  • They came in quickly and quietly - fine. They came in quickly, one by one - also fine. They came in quickly and one by one - NON-IDIOMATIC ZEUGMA. Aug 28, 2020 at 17:11
  • @JasonBassford Recommended reading: The Syntax of Adverb Distribution; Edelstein 2012 from the University of Edinburgh’s Research Archive. In that paper you'll also find many embedded references for further investigations in these matters.
    – tchrist
    Aug 29, 2020 at 19:23

The Royal Order of Adverbs has already been discussed on ELU.

This example contains two adverbs of the same category (manner) but very different subcategories, because they're essentially modifying two different senses of count:

  1. to determine the total number in a set
  2. to enunciate that determining process [counting out]

Here, 'one by one' describes the way the summing is done, and 'out loud' shows that sense (2) is in play. So the usual 'rule'

  • When we use multiple adverbs of the same category to modify the same verb, we order them based on how specific the information is that they provide.

does not apply. The 'manners' described are orthogonal.

However, 'counting out', often used in primary schools, shows a large degree of cohesion between 'count' and 'out [loud]'. This adverbial needs to be close to the verb, as others have commented.

A complication is that 'count' sounds off when separated from the direct object.

A reasonable compromise, as FumbleFingers suggests, is

  • I counted my classmates out loud, one by one.

The comma is at least preferable to echo the pause most would leave between the adverbials. It helps with parsing, and is in line with the comma between coordinate adjectives.

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    Ah. That's it - "two different senses of count". That I think is why it's not idiomatic to join those two adverbial elements with and. Aug 28, 2020 at 16:47
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    There's a subtle zeugma involved, the mental process count and the counting out. As can be the case with read. I read avidly and at the top of my voice sounds quirky. Aug 28, 2020 at 16:53
  • The Royal Order of Adverbs sounds like a chivalric order for abecedarians.
    – Davo
    Aug 28, 2020 at 17:33

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