I have searched the definition of contrarily to know its usage. I found this

A child who behaves contrarily behaves badly by deliberately doing the opposite of what is wanted or expected.

I understood the meaning of this it shows contrast.

But, I am now confused about the adverb's position in this sentence ("by deliberately doing"), because it is in between the preposition by and gerund doing.

Could you please help to understand it?

  • 1
    I hope someone carefully answers your question. Why do you you think the adverb-gerund word order is wrong?
    – Anton
    Aug 14, 2022 at 7:35
  • I thought adverb can't modify a gerund in sentence.
    – user461735
    Aug 14, 2022 at 8:03
  • 1
    The fact that a verb is in the gerund does not make it "unmodifiable" by adverbs. It still remain a verb.
    – fev
    Aug 14, 2022 at 8:18
  • Actually, we read adverb can modify verb, adjective and other adverb in sentence. And gerund act as noun that's why I got confused in this sentence.
    – user461735
    Aug 14, 2022 at 10:08
  • Well, it preserves many features of a verb. Consider: He deliberately does the opposite of what is wanted or expected.
    – fev
    Aug 14, 2022 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


Adverbs can go in a number of positions, but here it's not by which is moving the adverb, but the particular use of doing.

  1. He annoys me by behaving badly.
  2. He annoys me by doing that deliberately.
  3. He annoys me by doing what I tell him not to deliberately.
  4. He annoys me by deliberately doing what I tell him not to.
  5. He annoys me by doing deliberately what I tell him not to.

Normally, an adverb goes after the verb it modifies. as in 1 and 2.

Where the verb has a long object phrase as in 3, "what I tell him not to" rather than a pronoun that, the adverb almost certainly needs to be moved. In 3, the closest verb to deliberately is tell, and it is that verb which deliberately modifies. You have told him something deliberately, and he doesn't comply. The implication is that if he will comply if you don't tell him deliberately!

The desired meaning in 3 is made clearer in 4 by moving the adverb closer to the verb it needs to modify: doing. In this case, the idiomatic position is before the verb, by deliberately doing.

The order in 5 is possible and understandable, but it's unusual and no longer idiomatic (if it ever was).

A further consideration might be a transitive-verb sentence like

  1. He annoys me deliberately.
  2. He deliberately annoys me.

Here, although the meaning is the same (the annoying is intentional), there is a difference in emphasis: moving the adverb forward in the sentence — even separating the verb from its subject — raises its importance.

This doesn't work with an intransitive verb. You can't have "*He badly behaves;" it must be "✓He behaves badly," although other adverbs can be inserted into that sentence in a variety of places. Note that badly modifies behaves and always comes after the verb.

  1. He behaves badly deliberately.
  2. He behaves deliberately badly.
  3. He deliberately behaves badly.

Here, 8 is a bit stilted not particularly good style, and there is a difference in emphasis between 9 and 10.


The position of deliberately is not determined by the preposition by, but by the verb doing which happens to be in the gerund. Adverbs of manner, like deliberately is, can go before the verb. They

sometimes go in mid position [that is, after the subject and before the verb], if the adverb is not the most important part of the clause or if the object is very long. (Cambridge)

In your sentence, the object of doing is indeed long. To say

... by doing [the opposite of what is wanted or expected] deliberately.

would be more clumsy. Putting deliberately after doing is not a good idea, as verbs should not be separated from their objects.

An adverb of manner cannot be put between a verb and its direct object. The adverb must be placed either before the verb or at the end of the clause. (ef.co.uk)

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