Frequently, people who drink and drive vs. people who frequently drink and drive

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High on grammar

Senior Member
Farsi
Hello everyone:

In her book Take Command of Your Writing, Jill Meryl Levy talks about squinting modifiers, which refer to adverbs that could modify two words.

She cites the following sentence as an example of a squinting modifier:

“People who drink and drive frequently cause accidents.” (Do they frequently cause accidents, or do they frequently drink and drive?)

She says in order to get rid of the confusion, we should place “frequently” at the beginning of the sentence: “Frequently, people who drink and dive cause accidents.”

But I think “frequently” should be placed before “drink and drive”: [People who frequently<drink and drive> cause accidents.]

What do you guys think?


Thanks
 
Last edited:
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The two placements distinguish the two meanings. At the beginning, "frequenty they cause accidents". Before 'drink', the meaning is that they "frequently drink and drive".

    In the original sentence the two meanings would be distinguished by intonation, so it's not ambiguous in speech, only in writing.
     

    High on grammar

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    The two placements distinguish the two meanings. At the beginning, "frequenty they cause accidents". Before 'drink', the meaning is that they "frequently drink and drive".

    In the original sentence the two meanings would be distinguished by intonation, so it's not ambiguous in speech, only in writing.
    :thumbsup:

    This means that "those who drink and drive on a regular basis" cause accidents.
    "Frequently, people who drink & drive cause accidents" means "Often, accidents are caused by people who drink and drive."
    :thumbsup:
     

    MoeLester

    Member
    Polish
    I think it makes little sense to rely on "frequently" alone to begin with.
    Instead, in order to distinguish two possible meanings, I would simply expand these sentences.
    - "People who drink and drive are the ones who frequently cause accidents." - they frequently cause accidents.
    - "People who frequently drink and drive cause accidents." - they frequently drink and drive.
     

    High on grammar

    Senior Member
    Farsi
    The two placements distinguish the two meanings. At the beginning, "frequenty they cause accidents". Before 'drink', the meaning is that they "frequently drink and drive".

    In the original sentence the two meanings would be distinguished by intonation, so it's not ambiguous in speech, only in writing.

    Hi, there, entangledbank, is it also possible to place "frequently" at the end of the sentence?

    People who drink and drive cause accidents frequently.

    Thanks
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I think "frequently" is a bad choice for that sentence and doesn't really make a ton of sense with any positioning. But certainly the one given as a 'squinting' example is the most confusing version.
     
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