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I would like to compare the following two sentences in terms of meaning so as to see how replacing modifiers can cause to change the meaning completely.

  1. He earned nearly $100.

  2. He nearly earned $100.

For me, the first sentence has a sense that he earns an amount close to $100 or almost $100. However, I could not figure out if the second sentence has a misleading meaning or it does not just make a sense.

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'nearly' can be read to modify a different element of each sentence.

He earned nearly $100.

'nearly' modifies the $100 amount. Therefore the sentence can be read as 'he earned an amount slightly less than $100', say, $95.

He nearly earned $100.

'nearly' modifies earned here. Therefore the sentence can be read as 'he had the opportunity to earn $100 but it didn't work out.'

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  • I see. So I would rephrase the second sentence in this way : " He was going to earn $100 .(but he could not or did not because he did not get the job). Thanks :)
    – Mrt
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 5:12
  • btw how to put together correctly an amount + close + $100 ..is it " an amount close to $100" or " an amount to close $100" ?
    – Mrt
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 5:16
  • Yes, you could rephrase the second part of the sentence in that way. And to answer your second comment, "an amount close to $100" is the correct usage.
    – mike
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 5:24

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