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I was talking with a friend and we mentioned the song I Don't Wanna Live Forever. He said it meant "I just want to die for good." I disagreed, saying it meant "I don't want to be immortals".

But after that, when I think back, I am actually confused. Because it seems that in this case "forever" can modify anything: the whole clause before it altogether, or "don't wanna live", or just "live", and the meaning would be different.

Is there any methods on how to determine the thing being modified by adverbs in such cases?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user230
    Nov 23, 2019 at 23:04

2 Answers 2

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The way your friend had it would be written with a comma, probably, for emphasis:

I don’t want to live, forever.

It doesn’t make any sense though, because “I want” is a statement based in the present, and it doesn’t make sense to project it to the future, any more than it would make sense to say:

I need a drink, forever.

Therefore, your interpretation is correct; the writer does not want to be alive indefinitely.

Your friend’s interpretation (if we had to use the word “forever”) would actually be said as:

I want to die and stay dead forever.

(Not quite as catchy in terms of song titles. :))

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  • Yeah I noticed! Because the "don't want to" is in the present tense, it doesn't make sense to modify it with "forever".
    – user104490
    Nov 24, 2019 at 11:38
  • "I don't want to live, forever." is a mistake. You either don't want to live or you don't want to live forever. A parenthetical forever at the end makes no sense.
    – Lambie
    Nov 25, 2019 at 16:28
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to live forever

That's right: to live forever, to live for a short time, to live wildly = adverbs, to live badly, to live well, to live grandly etc. In those cases, the adverb must follow the verb. The adverb modifies the verb and cannot go elsewhere to describe how one's lives.

Any word that describes how you live or how long you live must go after the verb live.

  • forever
  • for long
  • too long
  • too much more time
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    You said when the adverb describes how you live it must go after the verb live, but I asked if it can go anywhere else if it doesn't describe how you live (doesn't modify the verb). That's different.
    – user104490
    Nov 23, 2019 at 23:36
  • There is only one place for the adverb in your sentence, and that is after the verb live. I am saying it is an adverb because it describes how you live. Again, I repeat: I don't want to live forever.
    – Lambie
    Nov 25, 2019 at 16:25
  • Why can't we say "forever, we don't want to live" although it doesn't make sense normally?
    – user104490
    Nov 25, 2019 at 22:04
  • You can say whatever you want but whether it makes sense or is grammatical is another story. Saying and writing are two different things. It is very "yiddishy" to say, rhetorically: Forever I want to live? But for you to get that, you need to get the basic forms, which you seem to be disinterested in. For example: live forever, too long, too much, too happily, too sadly, too poorly, for now., etc. They all go after live. Those are enough pearls for now.
    – Lambie
    Nov 26, 2019 at 1:45
  • I don't know what you mean by "yidisshy". Plus, do I look like I never learned the structures such as "live forever", "live too long/much/happily/etc."? This post was never about just these forms or that specific case in question. I asked about different uses of adverbs and the application of these uses in different circumstances. Jason might have been problematic in his explanation, but at least he got what I was asking.
    – user104490
    Nov 26, 2019 at 2:43

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