The following example is from the Longman Dictionary of Common Errors. It marks the first as wrong and the latter two as correct.

✗ They had already ten children and didn't want any more.

✔ They already had ten children and didn't want any more.

✔ They had ten children already and didn't want any more.

Does this classification correspond with your experience? To my ears, "had already ten" sounds fine.

edit: My native language is German, where "Sie hatten bereits zehn Kinder" is the default sentence structure.

  • As far as common usage goes, this classification is correct. However, I could definitely see the "wrong" version being used in an artistic format like poetry. – Kevin May 29 '20 at 15:28
  • @JackO'Flaherty Yes, I meant it cannot come after a verb in the simple tense like that. "They had already had ten children by the time x occurred".[that would be with an auxiliary] I just wasn't paying attention.... – Lambie May 30 '20 at 18:02
  • They already had ten children (yes). They had ten children already (yes). They had already had ten children,. (yes). – Lambie May 30 '20 at 21:01
  • I would not say “had already ten” is definitely wrong; I believe I've heard educated natives say analogous sentences when speaking ex tempore. But in writing it suggests word-for-word translation from a foreign language. – Anton Sherwood Jun 1 '20 at 3:21

*"They had already ten children" is ungrammatical because an adverb, in general, cannot intervene between a verb and a direct object.

The sentence below, however, is OK:

"They have already had ten children"

That's because the first "have" is an auxiliary, not a lexical verb. An auxiliary does not take a direct object.

  • 1
    It depends on the adverb. They have only two children. – Lambie May 29 '20 at 15:42
  • @Lambie I'd say it depends on the modifying scope. In that sentence, "only" is a peripheral modifier. It modifies, and therefore is part of, the noun phrase "only two children". – user178049 May 29 '20 at 15:47
  • If you say already and ten together quickly, the sentence suddenly becomes less ungrammatical! Maybe? : ( – user3395 May 30 '20 at 17:29

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