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Which statement is correct?

  1. The change adds more info to the changelog about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx.

Or:

  1. The change adds more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx to the changelog.
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    Neither is a sentence. It is unclear what meaning you wish to express. Can you explain?
    – Greybeard
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:02
  • 1
    Please edit to explain in your own words what the statement is referring to. What do you think the particular difficulties are with each version?
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:07
  • Both sentences are grammatical, so the question would come down to which version expresses the information more clearly. "The (programming?) change adds additional information retroactively to the Change Log for commits from May xx, xxxx".
    – TimR
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:45
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    Both are grammatically correct (though some people here are confused by the technical terminology--"commit" is a noun here). Voting to reopen since there is an interesting question here: since "more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx" is a complete noun phrase in (2), why can we break it up into parts in (1)?
    – alphabet
    Nov 25, 2023 at 15:21
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    Yes, there is: the head of a PP normally occurs in front position followed by its complement. One exception is the prep "ago", which invariably follows its complement. Thus, "two weeks ago" is a PP where "two weeks" is complement of "ago".
    – BillJ
    Nov 25, 2023 at 18:28

4 Answers 4

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First: some commenters got confused by the technical language in this sentence. Commit here is a noun, referring to a record of a batch of changes to a codebase; the sentence is talking about the commits made on some date "May xx, xxxx." A changelog is a written listing of the differences between versions of a piece of software. One would often add information related to codebase changes to such a changelog, which explains the sentence's meaning.

On to the main topic: there's a substantial difference between these two sentences:

  1. The change adds more info to the changelog about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx.
  2. The change adds more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx to the changelog.

In version (2), "more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx" is a single noun phrase; "about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx" modifies "info," and within that "on May xx, xxxx" modifies "commits." "To the changelog," though, is a separate modifier (or rather complement) of the verb "adds."

So, what's going on in version (1)? Why can we break up the noun phrase into pieces like that? The answer is that (1) contains a postposing construction. In this construction, some element within a clause is extracted from its usual location and moved to (or near to) the end of the clause. In this case, the prepositional phrase "about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx" has been extracted from the noun phrase and shifted to the end of the sentence.

One reason we use postposing is to keep "heavy" constituents, ones that are particularly long or complex, at the end of the clause (Huddleston & Pullum (2002), pp. 1382-1383). Consider these two examples that Huddleston & Pullum give:

  1. You’ll find the report that the company has prepared in response to the secretary's latest allegations on your desk.
  2. You’ll find on your desk the report that the company has prepared in response to the secretary's latest allegations.

In (3), the object ("the report...allegations") occurs in its normal position immediately after the verb. However, this sounds quite awkward, since that noun phrase is so much heavier than the following locative "on your desk." So instead, we would typically prefer version (4), where the object is postposed.

Now, in your example, I think either the postposed version (1) or the more ordinary version (2) would be acceptable; certainly "to the changelog" is less heavy than "more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx," but (2) is nowhere near as bad as (3) above. But, as Paul Tannenbaum notes in his answer, there's a third option here:

  1. The change adds to the changelog more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx.

In (5), the entire noun phrase "more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx" has been postposed, not just the prepositional phrase "about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx." This moves an even heavier constituent to the end of the clause, and it keeps the whole noun phrase together, so it may be preferable to either (1) or (2).

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    The change adds more info to the changelog about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx. I think that order is standard. I don't see any moving. That's where it comes in the sequence. This play activates more passions in people about previous works by the same author.
    – Lambie
    Nov 25, 2023 at 17:52
  • @Lambie Importantly: we aren't talking about a changelog about the commits, we're talking about information about the commits; that information, about the commits, is being added to the changelog. That's by far the most sensible interpretation given the way these terms are used in technical contexts.
    – alphabet
    Nov 25, 2023 at 19:04
  • Grammatically, "commits" can be any x noun, and No. 1 is still the best.
    – Lambie
    Nov 26, 2023 at 15:54
  • I find (5) significantly more awkward and cumbersome than (1) and (2). Albeit not as significantly, I also find (4) less natural – or at least more formal – than (3), which I don’t find awkward at all. Having long constituents intervene can of course lead to very awkward sentences, but I don’t think (3) is an example. Nov 26, 2023 at 23:37
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Both are grammatically correct. Your second is the clearer. And clearer still would be

The change adds to the change log more info about the previous commits on May xx, xxxx.

This version has the prepositional phrase to the changelog contiguous with the verb adds so as to keep all of the sentence’s new information together at the end.

Note that in some other contexts it is better to have the direct object be the element contiguous with the verb and put the prepositional phrase at the end. Thus, He wrote his next novel in German. Although placing the prepositional phrase before the direct object is less frequent in casual speech and tends not to work well—if at all—in shorter sentences, it can be very helpful for clarifying one’s meaning in written texts. For example, in the introduction of an essay about one of an author’s early novels and why it was significant, the sentence, He wove into it three themes that would feature prominently in all of his subsequent works, is appropriate, and moving into it to the end would degrade the sentence’s flow.

As a further note about your sentence, even in my proposed version there still remains ambiguity. What happened on that May day? The commits, their original logging, or the addition of the further information? Depending on the pragmatic context, this detail (ambiguity) might be unimportant. But without that context there cannot exist a definitive answer to your question, “Which is correct?”

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    Although this is unlikely to be undesirable in OP's use case, it's worth noting (in case they're ESL) that letting a PP intervene between the verb and direct object like that does ring markedly formal. Nov 26, 2023 at 1:34
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    @UnrelatedString, I have edited my answer to accommodate (what I took to be) your point. Nov 26, 2023 at 14:22
  • I disagree that the second is clearer; it can be read as concerning commits to the changelog. Nov 27, 2023 at 21:13
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If it’s not a changelog about previous commits, then your second example is clearer. Perhaps you can see that better comparing these simpler examples:

The edit adds more info to the article about the storm on Tuesday.
(The article is about the storm on Tuesday.)

The edit adds more info about the storm on Tuesday to the article.
(The additional info is about the storm on Tuesday.)

The change adds more info to the changelog about the previous commits on 1 May 2023.
(The changelog is about the previous commits on 1 May 2023.)

The change adds more info about the previous commits on 1 May 2023 to the changelog.
(The additional info is about the previous commits on 1 May 2023.)

0

No, there is no fixed order for prepositional phrases. The arrangement often depends on the specific context and the writer's choice.

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    Ok, but that's just like your opinion. Can you edit to add anything to back this up?
    – Laurel
    Nov 26, 2023 at 18:42

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