Problem statement:

I just can say Great!


I can just say Great!

The problem statement is one of many such statements that usually come up in the minds of non-native speakers. Others are like:

It's 6 only.


It's only 6.

One more:

I wonder sometimes do native speakers even care for such detail.


Sometimes I wonder do native speakers even care for such detail.

There may be a possibility that to me it may seem all these examples having a common issue but to an expert there may be more than one problem. Would really appreciate a detailed answer. I can add on more examples, if required.

  • 1
    The order matters in many sentences, but I expect this is mostly learned by memorization and familiarity. Just copy what native speakers do.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 22:16
  • 1
    @Andrew and what exactly native speakers do ?
    – EetSandhu
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 8:19

3 Answers 3


Adverbs can modify adjectives or verbs. So they are quite flexible in where they can appear in the sentence.

Some adverbs are really "sensitive" and for these, the meaning may change depending on the position they appear in the sentence. Only, just, and even are examples of these.

Only I can tell you = There is no one but me that can tell you.

I only can tell you = I cannot do anything else except tell you, I might be able to do different things to others.

I can only tell you = Same as above

I can tell only you = I can tell you but no one else

I can tell you only = This is ambiguous and can mean any of the above depending on which word the speaker places emphasis on.

Some are not flexible, e.g. probably a lot of adjectives with "-ly" tacked on. All the below mean the same.

Drunkenly, I walked to the store

I drunkenly walked to the store

I walked drunkenly to the store

I walked to the store, drunkenly


You asked a very open-ended question. The answer is, yes, the order of the words matters. However the order varies from statement to statement. There is a general "order of adverbs" which you can Google, but this is not guaranteed in every situation. Sometimes you just have to mimic the phrases you hear spoken by others.

For example, "it's 6 only" has a different nuance from "it's only 6". Putting "only" at the end emphasizes that it's is indeed only 6 of whatever. Meanwhile, "it's only 6" can be modest, or descriptive, or instructive, depending on the context."

For example, when I was younger I lived abroad, and didn't make much money. So, some weeks, I ate "rice and beans, only" because these were cheap.

Occasionally I would have a friend come over to eat with me. I would say, "I'm sorry, it's only rice and beans, is that ok?"

There's a difference in the nuance and meaning of each of these phrases, and of course, there are tens of thousands of other possible variations. I can't tell you what order to put the words in every one of these -- the best you can do is listen to native speakers and notice patterns.


per this post, order of adverbs (known as the "Royal Order of Adverbs") could be

  1. Manner
  2. Place
  3. Frequency
  4. Time
  5. Purpose

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