I can't figure out which is the correct order of adverbs in the sentences below.

  1. We met each other in the subway by chance yesterday.
  2. We met each other by chance in the subway yesterday.

Could you provide a rule or explain?

  • What do you think are adverbs here? Oct 14, 2019 at 16:58
  • In the subway, by chance, yesterday.
    – Let
    Oct 14, 2019 at 16:59
  • Please consider waiting 24 hours before accepting an answer, as recommended here. You might get a better answer than mine, or someone might find an error in my answer.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 14, 2019 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


They're both correct and perfectly ordinary English. English allows a lot of flexibility in the placement of prepositional phrases and adverbs in general. Here are some variations, which are also grammatical:

Yesterday, we met each other by chance in the subway.

Yesterday in the subway, we met each other by chance.

In the subway yesterday, we met each other by chance.

We met each other by chance yesterday in the subway.

We met each other yesterday, by chance, in the subway.

In the subway, purely by chance, we met each other—yesterday!

These all vary the emphasis, of course.

There are limits to the flexibility, though. This sounds extremely strange and many if not most fluent speakers would judge it ungrammatical:

We met yesterday by chance each other in the subway.

"Met each other" doesn't seem to want to be broken up, or the sentence becomes too hard to follow.

  • But is it most common when you place an adverb of place before an adverb of time? You show that you can do the other way around with "yesterday in the subway"?
    – Let
    Oct 14, 2019 at 17:26
  • 1
    @Rusletov I've never noticed a tendency to favor place before time or vice versa. I usually think that the speaker first establishes the main context and then narrows it down. "Yesterday in the subway…" suggests that "yesterday" is more important and "in the subway" is an incidental detail. "In the subway yesterday" makes the subway the more important part of the story. Of course, emphasis is subtle and easily shifted by context, so it's hard to make rules about it.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 14, 2019 at 17:34

I think yesterday is an adverb and in the subway and by chance are prepositional phrases acting as adverbials.

I do not think there is no specific rule to arrange them in a sentence but we have to see that the construction is not clumsy.

We met each other in the subway by chance yesterday.

We met each other bychance in the subway yesterday.

Yesterday, we met each other in the subway by chance.

I think all the above three sentences are correct.

The adverb yesterday can come even in the beginning of a sentence


per this post, order of adverbs could be

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

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