I was solving a question for TOEIC prep, and found this sentence. The question was

"The River Thames last ______ over three decades ago."

  1. freeze
  2. froze
  3. frozen
  4. freezing

The book says the answer is number 2 because the structure of the sentence goes like:

The River Thames(subject) last(adverb) _______(verb) over three decades ago.

However, somehow the placement of the adverb in the sentence feels so foreign. I mean, it is a foreign language to me, but this feels unusually foreign to me. Isn't there a certain rule to place adverb in a sentence? or you can place it anywhere?

  • 1
    The item is about verb tense, not adverb placement, but in this instance the resource has it right. Read it aloud to yourself 20 times, listening closely to the sound of your own voice - hear the English. And notice that in my comment I'm placing adverbs conveniently close to the verbs they modify. Good luck.
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 18:32
  • 4
    As an altogether separate issue, the sentence is, of course, ambiguous. Is the verb "froze" or "froze over"? They are different. "Froze" would just mean that some parts, perhaps near the river banks were frozen. "Froze over" would mean that it froze all the way across. So did it "freeze over", three decades ago? Or did it "freeze", over three decades ago?
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 18:59
  • 'Last' as an adverb conveying the 'the last time' sense is not used all that often, and then only in a formal register, which is why it may sound odd here. With this sense, it must be positioned before the main verb. He was last seen leaving the cinema. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 23:24
  • @EdwinAshworth I'd say "last" as an adverb in this sense is pretty much an everyday expression, in any register. Could this be a north v south of England oddity? "When did Oldham Athletic last win at home?"
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 15:20
  • @WS2 'When's the last time Norwich won at home?' is much more often encountered in conversation. Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


Adding an answer simply because the one in 2018 was rather short.

Where adverbs are placed in English sentences can be highly flexible and often (but not always) a matter of taste. There is some rough 'general guidance' to help you. But they're not strict rules, and a lot just depends on familiarity with the language.

A reasonable summary for learner can he found at ThoughtCo. However, it gives the impression of more prescriptive rules than is the case in reality.

The points made there can be summarized as:

Connecting adverbs

Often/usually placed at start of a sentence or clause to join it to a previous sentence or clause.

It has been raining all day. However, the sun just came out.


It has been raining all day. The sun, however, just came out.


It has been raining all day. The sun just came out, however.

are both acceptable, if uncommon and perhaps more likely in written than spoken English.

Time adverbs

Very flexible:

Mostly the aliens come at night.

The aliens mostly come at night.

The aliens come at night mostly.

But compare "always". For reasons that don't make much sense, you can't easily use it in the same way as "mostly" or "sometimes".

I always procrastinate at work.

is fine, but:

Always I procrastinate at work

immediately sounds like a person speaking English as a second language. It's perfectly understandable, but it sounds foreign.

Focusing adverbs

Adverbs that add focus or emphasis, generally are more likely to appear in the 'mid position' in sentences, with the adverb appearing immediately before the verb is modifies.

I'll certainly buy the a copy of his book.

She often forgets her umbrella.

Adverbs of Manner, Place and Time

All tend to be placed at the end of sentences or clauses.

Barbara is cooking pasta downstairs.

I am leaving tomorrow.

It's probably worth checking a dictionary if in doubt to get a sense of how they are used in practice, as for every example given here it would be easy to give examples that do something different.


That's the usual way of saying it. There are other possibilities, but to me they pretty much require "for the last time" instead of just "last" -- before "over", after "ago".


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