Position of adverbs: difference between British and American English

August 23, 2011pdf

Mid-position adverbs usually go after auxiliary verbs, after am / are / is / was / were and before other verbs.

  • She has never written to me.
  • The discussion was mainly about politics.

When there are two or more auxiliary verbs, the adverb usually goes after the first.

  • You have definitely been working hard.

In American English, mid-position adverbs are often put before auxiliary verbs and am / are / is / was / were, even when the verb is not emphasized.

  • You certainly have made him angry. (US)
  • You have certainly made him angry. (GB)
  • You are always late. (GB)
  • You always are late. (US)
  • America has long been known as a land of opportunities. (GB)
  • America long has been known as a land of opportunities. (US)

In British English, mid-position adverbs can go before auxiliary verbs and am / are / is / was / were when we want to emphasize the auxiliary verbs.

  • I am really sorry. (No emphasis on am.)
  • I really AM sorry. (Emphasis on AM)

In negative sentences, mid-position adverbs generally come before not if they emphasize the negative.

Compare:

  • I really don’t like her. (Strong dislike)
  • I don’t really like her. (Mild dislike)
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