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I used an example in another post (It seems that using **even** sounds more idiomatic and natural in lots of situations, is it true?)

1: Alice's cooking is so bad that even her dog doesn't want to eat it.

Actually, I am not pretty sure I put "even" in an appropriate place, think about this one

2: Alice's cooking is so bad that her dog doesn't even want to eat it.

I guess there might be a tiny difference between 2 of them though I really don't know what it is.

So, do they means the same? Which one is more idiomatic and natural?

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OP's examples use even in the sense as per the full Oxford English Dictionary definition #8...

Used to convey that what is being referred to is an extreme case in comparison with a weaker or more general one which is stated or implied in the adjacent context.
Prefixed to the particular word, phrase, or clause in which the extremeness of the case is expressed.
Now the prevailing use of the word in English.

Hence with...

1: Alice's cooking is so bad that even her dog doesn't want to eat it

...we're being presented with her dog as the most extreme example of a "reluctant diner" (nobody wants to eat her food, not even her dog).

But with the (extremely unlikely) version...

2: Alice's cooking is so bad that her dog doesn't even want to eat it

...the implication would have to be that her dog's attitude to the food is "extreme". Stereotypically, dogs are extremely enthusiastic about any food on offer, so for her dog to not actually want the food at all is an extreme case.

That second version would be an "unusual" thing to say, but it might make sense if we suppose the context is that the dog does in fact eat her cooking - but reluctantly and without enthusiasm (because it's told to eat, force of habit, or just to avoid starving to death - it doesn't actually want to eat it).

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  • Thanks for your comprehensive explanation. Both are idiomatic, and the former one seems easier to understand, right? – WXJ96163 Mar 4 at 14:10
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    No. The doesn't even want to version is not "idiomatic". It's syntactically valid, but it has a different meaning - which meaning is difficult to explain because it would require such an unusual context for that meaning to make any sense at all. All you need to do is focus on Prefixed to the particular word, phrase, or clause in my answer text. That tells you where to place adverbial even so it correctly attaches to the intended part of the utterance you're trying to emphasise as an extreme case. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 14:47
  • I can't tell exactly how my words translate into thoughts in your head, but if you have understood things better now I've posted that comment, and if you can tell me what I could have written in the actual answer text so you wouldn't have ended up mistakenly thinking "both are idiomatic", please tell me what I could do to imprive my answer text. I ask this because comments like this may be deleted in future, but ideally this answer should be useful to future visitors, who may also misunderstand what I meant, if I don't make some changes. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 14:51
  • First of all, the quotation from OED says "in which the extremeness of the case is expressed", which leads me think of the extremeness is the key condition. And then each paragraph after examples explains why each situation (context) is extremeness. On the other hand, I don't pay much attention to "unusual thing to say" in the last paragraph. That's why I didn't get the full story. However, I get a completely clear understanding about that now. A million thanks to you! – WXJ96163 Mar 4 at 15:04
  • Okay thanks for that. I'll settle for just highlighting the relevant words so they won't be so easily skipped over. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 15:08
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That adverb meaning of 'even' applies to something that follows it.

1) "Alice's cooking is so bad that even her dog doesn't want to eat it." Example 1 means that her dog would eat almost anything, but not her cooking. That is, the group of creatures rejecting her cooking extends even to her dog.

2) "Alice's cooking is so bad that her dog doesn't even want to eat it." In example 2, 'even', applied to what follows, would modify either 'want' or 'eat', which doesn't quite make sense.

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