language corner

Adverb Placement

July 4, 2007

Two schools of thought seem to exist on the placement of adverbs with compound verbs. One is easy: just stick it in front of the verb and be done with it. “He always has been a little slow,” say, or “She frequently will disagree” or “That train habitually has run late.”

The other approach, subscribed to here, is that the adverb works more mellifluously after the first part of the compound verb. Usually. So it would be “He has always…” and “She will frequently…” and “That train has habitually…”

But it’s a rough rule, and it was followed out the window here: “As he has labored to fill his outsized war chest, the governor has, like everyone else, had to endure his share of negative publicity.” Splitting “has” and “had” that way is ugly. Make it natural: “…the governor, like everyone else, has had to …”

Evan Jenkins wrote the Language Corner column for CJR through the Fall of 2007.