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From bbc

If the verb has an object, the adverb of manner is usually placed after the object, not between the verb and object.

A post says

"Lovely" and "wonderful" mean pretty much the same thing

which seems to be against that rule. the one with that rule could be

"Lovely" and "wonderful" pretty much mean the same thing

Is my understanding right?

  • (Pretty) much is a quantifier, not an adverb. In this sentence, it modifies (quantifies) the noun phrase the same thing. But it can quantify the verb phrase (mean the same thing) as well, since it floats. – John Lawler May 27 '20 at 18:17
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It depends on whether the adverb is acting on the object or the verb. In some cases, it doesn't matter. In other cases, it changes the meaning. Just for simplicity's sake, I'm going to replace the phrase "pretty much" with the adverb "almost".

Your example:

  1. "Lovely" and "wonderful" mean almost the same thing
  2. "Lovely" and "wonderful" almost mean the same thing

There are two words, and0 two meanings. In example 1, you are saying that the meanings are almost the same; in example 2, you are saying that the two words almost much have the same meaning. The resulting meaning to the listener is pretty much (!) the same

For a clearer difference, consider this example:

  1. He almost travelled right around the world.
  2. He travelled almost right around the world.

In example 1, because the adverb is acting on "him", it could mean the person never even set off on the journey! In example 2, the adverb is acting on the travelling, so it means that his travels took him almost right around the world, but not the whole way.

  • You showed me the light grammatically. Thank you. How about the meaning in real life? For example, a friend, Christopher, talks to me, "Ronald almost travelled right around the world". Most of time, Christopher doesn't mean Ronald never even set off on the journey. Is my understanding right? – PutBere May 27 '20 at 14:01
  • @PutBere: Yes. If he almost killed everyone, it's quite possible he didn't actually kill anyone at all (he just came close to it, and if he had started killing, he might well have killed everyone). But if he killed almost everyone, he definitely killed a lot of people (but there were a few survivors). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 27 '20 at 14:16

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