The cat was (quietly) lying (quietly) on the sofa

Albertorenzo

New Member
German - Germany
Hello everybody,

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This is the topic sentence:
The cat was (quietly) lying (quietly) on the sofa

Hello Albertorenzo - and welcome :)
It's important to include the topic sentence or phrase in your post. >>


My question concerns the adverb in the given phrase. My problem is the position of adverbs in phrases. Amongst other thinks, I am working on it with a book. In this book one task was to put adverbs in the right position. I wrote the sentence with this word in the first position, but according to the solution it has to be behind the last verb.

Is it possible that both positions are correct? If not, can anybody explain this to me?

Thanks a lot!

Alberto
 
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  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    This is largely a matter of style, though some people will insist that there are fixed rules.

    The problem with putting the adverb in the first position is that "was lying" is, in effect, a single verb even though it consists of two words in English. English uses auxiliary verbs where many other languages conjugate the main verb, but "was lying" still expresses a single concept. Breaking it up by putting another word in between sounds bad to many people. It can also confuse a reader, who doesn't know that "was" is the first part of a verb until after the adverb. We don't realize it, it's subconscious and doesn't take a long time, but we have to go back and figure out what is being said. That wastes time and energy that we could otherwise use to understand the speaker's or writer's message.

    So, I urge you not to separate these two words unless there is a good reason. In this case, there is not.
     

    born in newyork

    Senior Member
    U.S.A./English
    I would say the adverb could go in either place. There may be some subtle difference in meaning depending on placement. But if there is, I can't say what that difference is.

    By the way, it's "quietly" (not "quitely") of course.
     

    Uncle Bob

    Senior Member
    British English
    I may be wrong but, like born in newyork I have the feeling that there is a slight difference in meaning:
    the cat was lying quietly - that's what it was doing.
    the cat was quietly lying - the cat was intentionally lying quietly
    Perhaps it's just my imagination.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    My imagination thinks:
    The cat was lying quietly. (with little or no motion or activity)
    The cat was quietly lying. (with little or no noise)
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    the cat was lying quietly - that's what it was doing.
    the cat was quietly lying - the cat was intentionally lying quietly
    The cat was lying quietly. (with little or no motion or activity)
    The cat was quietly lying. (with little or no noise)
    I think these are really good precisions. This question is fundamentally similar to the one on this other thread: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2366908 (where the subject was "does (however) not (however)"). "Was lying" is a weak unit, much weaker than "does not," so it's not inconceivable that an adverb would be put there to add emphasis - this is the emphasis Uncle Bob finds when he reads "intention" into the adverb. Whenever things are put in the "wrong" place, it gives an impression of vividness and energy.

    The second reason to split the unit "was lying" is given by Myridon. "To sit quietly," "to lie still," etc. - in all those phrases "quietly" means "without moving or futzing about." So if you want to say that the cat was lying noiselessly, you have to avoid making the phrase "lie quietly," which leads you to make the phrase "was quietly lying" instead.
     
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