Where is the proper placement for the adverb "previously" (are any of these incorrect usage?)? Do each connote a subtly different meaning?

  • It had been set previously.

  • It had been previously set.

  • It had previously been set.

  • It previously had been set.

Edit: Thanks for the comments. It would be helpful if you guys can give some scenarios where one would make sense over another.

  • 4
    This depends very largely on context, and on where it makes sense to put the emphasis. I can see myself favouring each one in different circumstances (if "It had been previously set to 'high' " say is allowed. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 11 '16 at 21:53
  • Yep, they're all valid (and generally interchangeable), but which one is preferred depends on context. – Hot Licks Oct 11 '16 at 23:41
  • 2
    And Previously, it had been set. – deadrat Oct 12 '16 at 0:24

Previously is an adverb of time relationship, and as such, it can be placed at the beginning of a sentence, at the end or in the middle (after the verb 'to be', after the auxiliary verb and before any other verbs).

This way,

  1. It had been set previously (end of sentence)
  2. Previously, it had been set (beginning of sentence)
  3. It had been previously set (mid-sentence, after auxiliary verb 'had', verb 'to be' and before verb 'set')
  4. It had previously been set (mid-sentence, in between auxiliary verb 'had' and verb 'to be' (which is also correct, as we have a complex verbal form) and before verb 'set')


  5. It previously had been set (can be considered at beginning of sentence, verb-wise)

are all correct, and the difference between them is mostly in formality and their usage depends on context.

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